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Dhammachakra Pravartan Din at Deekshabhoomi

"I have no Motherland' Ambedkar once said to Gandhi, in frustration following the treatment dalits received in 20th Century. However, even if today an educated chunk belonging to Scheduled caste group get similar feeling of whether this is really "My Motherland", then the status quo of the Indian society and the treatment its people receive has to be intriguing.

Stall selling calenders and books of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
Stall selling calenders and books of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar

In 1935 at Nasik district, Maharashtra, Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar had declared his firm resolve to change his religion. He famously said, "The object of our movement is to achieve social freedom. It is equally true that this freedom cannot be secured without conversion". On October 14, 1956, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and lakhs of his followers converted to Buddhism at a place in Nagpur which is now called Deeksha Bhoomi.  The day of Vijayadashmi Dussehra, for on this day in 1956, millions of Dalits “broke the shackles of Hindu religion and converted to Buddhism,” according to him.

Just as every year, lakhs of people from Scheduled caste and many progressive groups across India gather in Nagpur to remember this day, to celebrate the Dhammachakra Pravartan Din. Whole city of Nagpur is seen with people from across the country visiting to pay homage to their leader and witness this event of their Liberty. Every nook and corner across Nagpur is seen with people greeting each other. Various Books written by Ambedkar and other progressive writers are sold on a ground near Deekshabhoomi. People rejoice to the rebellious songs singing the story of their liberation and rebel.  Music, Speeches, Books, Reverence, Self-respect, Organisation, Citizenship rights, people resolve to abide by Ambedkar's message of "Educate, Organize and Agitate" and lot more can be observed as key-features of this gathering to any witness present there. Book selling crosses record numbers in mere 2 days.  The ambience is much similar, even grand compared to what we witness on 6th December in Dadar in Mumbai when people come to pay homage to Ambedkar on his Death Anniversary.

dalits posing in front of Deeksha Bhoomi on Dhamma Chakra Pravartan Din
Deeksha bhoomi continues to call lakhs every year, six decades after Ambedkar's demise
Book stall selling Ambedkar's works
Book stall selling Ambedkar's works

I had no expectation personally that this event could get any air-time in the mainstream media, and I was quite not outraged though not OK with the "black-out" of this event in the media. The outrage arose when since morning I have been watching a Mohan Bhagwat speech atttended by a very tiny crowd being aired on all channels held at Reshim Baugh which is hardly few kilometers away from Deekshabhoomi. I mean, the attitude of "ignorance towards a group existence"  of the media is quite evident when their cameras and vans easily navigate through hundreds of people celebrating all around the city but cover a speech of RSS chief.

Followers of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar at Deeksha Bhoomi
Followers of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar at Deeksha Bhoomi

If media is the fourth pillar of Democracy, the role of Media towards the society and its citizenry has to be extremely responsible. Such ignorance of an outright apparent grand event and cover another speech is a matter of great introspection for us as a society. Such acts clearly gives a group a feeling of being unimportant in the national arena. While the media keeps harping about Secularism, such navigation of their cameras clearly reveal their biased approach of ignorance and selective importance towards the citizens of a same country. Media attitude in this case is "Philosophy of Silence and Killing by ignorance". Such occasions clearly expose the double-standards media practices about Secularism. Secularism discourse in India has been narrowed down to mere Hindu-Muslims binary. When Secularism in its broader sense has to be in treating each citizen of the State without any prejudice arising out of caste, creed, religion etc. Such occasions definitely create a feeling of alienation among the minorities (Scheduled castes in this context). I do not know whether the camera ignorance/affinity of media in this case is just about the indifference or subtle upper-caste prejudice/arrogance. I am not a journalism expert, but I'm sure journalism cannot be just about the TRPs or the choices of the editors, what to air and what not.

- An outraged Citizen of India (Pratik Tembhurne)

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The Guwahati gang molestation shocked the Nation with the usual monthly fury. How can men behave like animals? Women are not safe anymore and such talk abounded. Lot of moral outrage. In other news, there was a group of people criticizing the NCW team for posing for a picture where they are smiling and look carefree. In still other news, there was a bunch of people passing around an image compiled from Sagarika's tweets on the subject pointing out to how her views changed. I had my usual trolls lampooning me over whatever views of mine offended them. Life went on.

In my view, our online life is a good example and predictor of our offline life. Our minds are the same, our personalities are the same, and our default responses to situations are the same. It is only the medium that has changed, and the actions. One may not be able to molest a woman online, but they sure can jeer, make sexual innuendos, or otherwise bully her. Last week someone wanted me raped for something I said. A couple of months back, someone had said that to Meena Kandasamy and triggered a women's rights signature campaign. Generally, I find that if anyone threatens rape, then people kind of throw disapproval at that person till he changes his words or they get bored. The objection is to the threat of rape, not to the use of threats to try and silence someone.

I am small fry. Some of the most hated/ridiculed men on Twitter are Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Subramanian Swamy, Arnab Goswami and Kapil Sibal for men.  Some of the most hated/ridiculed women on Twitter are Sonia Gandhi, Barkha Dutt, Arundhati Roy, Teesta Setalvad and Sagarika Ghose. It is worth keeping an eye on tweets about these people to see the kind of abuse they get. Abuse for men is related with judgments of their competence or crimes as per whatever the abuser imagines. On the other hand, abuse women get routinely slips into the sexual. "Spreads her legs for XYZ" "Should be raped" "prostitute" etc. The other thing I notice is that the abuse is rarely over anything these people did to individuals speaking, but by being themselves. They are also highly popular figures with large followings appreciating what they do.

In my view, the idea that someone did something offensive giving the right to anyone to attack them is very IT Rulesish. I am not speaking of criticism, but of deliberate character assassinations that go beyond objections to the actions or stands of a person to vilify the person him/herself. So, calling Modi a mass murderer makes perfect sense to people, because they think he is guilty of sanctioning the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. Whether he actually killed anyone or not. Incidentally, the same people will not call Rajiv Gandhi a mass murder, if sanction is the reason. This is not to excuse crimes by anyone including Modi, but pointing out the permission we give ourselves to attack another at will.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never kill me.

This above line is a lie. Physical violence happens with blows and weapons, but mental violence happens with words, attitudes and destroying reputations. Destroyed reputations are the reasons for a lot of real damage ranging from depression and destroyed self-esteem to honor killings and suicides. The hatred I see online would likely not see this as a minus at all, but call it a confirmation of guilt. Because the intent is to cause damage to that person to whatever extent they can.

I have taken a strong stand against domestic violence and alcoholism and often tweet real life incidents from my own life as well as others I come across, because I think these things need spoken about. I have often got replies like "her husband doesn't beat her enough" or "publicizing domestic problems to gain sympathy" etc. While the first seems openly offensive, the second is criticism aimed at devaluing my right to speak about my life however I want. It also makes the suggestion that a domestic violence victim getting sympathy is somehow inappropriate. I am extraordinarily resilient when it comes to trouble, but attitudes like this in society are a very common part of suicides from harassment, where the victim gets victimized for being a victim or drawing attention to herself.

The same society then looks at a body dangling from a ceiling and says sorrowfully, "Why didn't he say anything?"

What do we do when he did say something? Call it inappropriate and his personal problem. We are a society intolerant of mistakes, weaknesses and imperfections. These usually invite attacks, because we fear our own vulnerability. We don't accept ourselves, so it makes react with intolerance to others. We band together with those with "faults" like ours and be a mob denying that the trait is a fault at all. We mob together to attack our traits that we deny. We wipe out anything that will force us to look good and hard at ourselves unless denied.

Now let us look at a third thing. The popcorn gallery. Countless incidents have demonstrated that the crowd that gathers watching a wrong happen either support the abuser, or stay quiet. What happens online? If you see someone call Sonia Gandhi a whore on Twitter? The chances are high that the tweet will get a lot of RTs and those who disagree will simply ignore the people. If one person attacks another unfairly on Twitter, the chances are high that most people following both will pretend not to see anything. At most, they will tell them not to fight. The chances that an abuser online will be stopped by a crowd are the same as those in real life. Slim to none.

I have a simple policy of refusing to participate in discussions attacking people. I also never block people. I don't need to. refusals work well. Most people no longer tag me while insulting someone. It is not impossible to refuse to allow attacks to happen in the space you influence. It is about intent. I do it in real life too. It is not enough.

This, in my view mental violence destroying the space to live at all in the country, because disagreement becomes a question of who can overpower the other. This is happening in real life too. People with power can invade the rights of others and the popcorn gallery is used to it. The surprise is if the less powerful resist. If instead of getting molested, the girl had fought back and escaped, the video would be a characterless girl on the streets of Guwahati who brazenly attacked people and ran away. For a wrong against her to be objected to, she first has to suffer "enough". The wrong being done in itself wouldn't matter. Because we are a mindset of throwing crumbs of support if a plight seems horrible enough. We are not about values and ethics and individual rights regardless of caste, creed and gender.

The mass molestation in Guwahati got a lot of attention, but not the fact that the girl was an Adivasi girl. My hunch is because she got more publicity than Adivasi girls get normally. Media probably didn't want to jinx that. The reason may not be true, but it is true that the girl is an adivasi and most news haven't bothered to report that. Also, good in another view, I think, because a girl outside a pub gets more defenders than the adivasi girl stripped in some village. Like there are people who think only prostitutes go to pubs, there are others who find the rights of innocent pub going girls more touching than those of adivasis. The good old PLU preference is very strong when it comes to doling out approval for rights of people.

All in all, it is high time we accept that we are living in a world we create. We are the victim, we are the molesters, we are the popcorn gallery.

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Difficult moment in the Jan Lokpal struggle. Arvind Kejriwal says that the government is responsible if something happens to Anna.

When a much needed movement goes wrong, my greatest service is to speak up.

It is a difficult moment. A small movement struck an unexpected chord in the country and became an inferno. It built momentum till it forced the government to recognize the people's need. It was powerful enough to reemerge like a phoenix after months of silence at the moment of need. It is a powerful movement. Those steering it hold a lot of power. It makes it important that all follow the path impeccably.

When a crowd this large comes together, all it knows is that it is a peaceful protest. But a satyagraha is more than that. It is a philosophy. It is insistence that what is right be done. That is what gives it power. If what is being asked for is not rightful, then the power is destructive. It is also weak, because people can't logically arrive at the same false solution.

The tremendous success of this movement was because what was being asked for is a genuine, burning need.

I have written at each stage of smaller successes or failures, that this will get a lot worse before it gets better. There are powerful sides. There are powerful motives, there is a lot of effort. Whether right or wrong is irrelevant. What "should" be is irrelevant. Ground reality is that this was never going to be a cakewalk. We knew it going in. Anna knew it going in. It was a choice we had, and we made it. We were proud of the heroes who chose to publicly suffer hunger as a manifestation and symbol of the suffering the group was expressing.

Now we are hitting the difficult parts, and our integrity is falling apart. We must keep our eyes on the path and not get incited by our fears and anger.

When people sat for a fast unto death, death was always on the table. Today, a man died. The "death" from "fast unto death" just became more real. We are into the rough time. But nothing else has changed. We are still on a non-violent protest, our volunteers fasting are still making tremendous personal sacrifice out of free will.

Today, Kejriwal said something that was untrue. He said it publicly. He said the government would be responsible if anything happened to Anna. I can understand that as the person managing the initiative, he is under tremendous pressure. As a leader, he had a man die today. Frustration, anger, grief could have caused these words and the same sentiments in the followers are making them echo widely.

This blog has dozens of posts I wrote in support of the movement. I am no opposer. But, I see us going down the path of untruth, and I must speak up. A person is responsible for their choices. Good or bad. No matter the consequences. You can't say, "Oh, if we get the Jan Lokpal, then Anna chose to fast, and if something happens to Anna, then the government made him fast". Without free will, there cannot be satyagraha. As such, no matter how difficult times get, it is important that we keep in mind that no matter what wrong we are protesting, no matter whether someone agreed to demands or not, no matter whether there is success or failure, our actions are our own.

History has shown us that when people lose sight of this fact, frustration and anger cause failure. Think Gandhi and Chauri-Chaura. If Gandhiji hadn't called off the Satyagraha, use of excessive force against protesters would be justified. That was his moment of truth. The movement had derailed, and he made a historical ethical call to call it off at its peak.

Today's statement takes us in that direction. We are at our peak, and in a moment of weakness, a target has been set up for public anger. This is very dangerous for the country. While I understand that it wasn't a good day to be talking with introspection for Kejriwal, I do hope that he sees the falsehood in that angry blame and withdraws the statement and brings attention back to the reality. We set out to protest peacefully, come what may. We set out to sacrifice come what may.

It is an insult to the sacrifice of someone to present it as something they were forced to do. It is false that anyone can be responsible for what someone else does. Government or not. Anna is responsible for his choices. Not Kiran Bedi or Kejriwal, nor the government. He made that choice. If we suffer its consequences, they are because we love him. Let us not abandon our pain from our feelings for him as anger at government. When he lies physically weak, he needs us to enact his strength. We must not fail him by turning our actions from assertion to blame. We must not fail him by not bothering to understand the philosophy of the Satyagraha, because anger was easier than caring and hurt.

It has been a long and difficult day. I hope that people rest at night as well as they can, and think calmly and wake up with the moral strength it takes to see that the unwavering belief of Anna's that led this movement to this point is still his, not government property.

My hope is that Team Anna has consistently shown humility enough to admit statements made in error after reflection. Kejriwal has been angry and said things he shouldn't before. There have been retractions of incorrect statements after facts were reflected on. Ego never forced Team Anna to remain stubborn about wrong words. I am hoping that this is one of them. I hope that at this crucial juncture and under pressure, he still demonstrates that skill only Team Anna has shown among public entities - to self-correct with dignity.

I could have simply turned sides and asked for the movement to be stopped. But I believe in it. I am not against the movement. I am not against Anna. I even have great admiration for Kejriwal. All I am saying is that this recent statement takes the Satya out of Satyagraha, and doing my duty as a supporter - sharing my ability to see for our collective well being.

What is a satyagraha without satya?

I believe that when the going gets tough, and seeing clearly becomes difficult, those who can must help others see so that we move forward with purpose and not fall off the track.

So, when I see our ethics derailing, I am digging in my heels, and speaking up.

I will not step out of the path of Satyagraha, even if I stand there alone.

 

In the digital age where Megabyte is the new dynamite and power of ideas and connectivity cannot be ignored, this is an experiment in the Lab of thoughts - Ink lab.

Set in the sociopolitical scenario when India is fighting against corruption and a successful mass movement has already build up all across the nation, this 65 min. guerilla film on the issue of Corruption explores how the power of idea and thoughts of a common man shape up the destiny of the whole nation.

On 8th April 1929, it was bomb explosion in the Central Assembly that was used by freedom fighters ‘to make the deaf hear’, today, after more than 80 years , on same date, millions of citizens with a common dream of a better India have proved as explosive and have shaken the empire in a Gandhian way. Central to both the revolutions is the strong idea and belief to bring about positive change in the lives of common man, however both violence of Bhagat Singh and Non-violence of Gandhi have remained misunderstood by many. The film tries to make a point that mere silence is not peace..and nor does..’Long live revolution’ mean constant unrest.

The protagonist of the film is a young PhD student, a rational thinker who believes in experiments and is not bound by any political ideology. Being inquisitive and experimental in nature, he keeps on exploring various ways of bringing about change, weather it is joining social group or student political party…but to his disappointment he could not connect well with any of these groups with stagnant mindsets. Inspired by the martyar Shaheed Bhagat Singh, he also makes and tests homemade bombs for himself to satisfy his curiosity. This man, who has some plans for April, has gone missing ..may be to explore his way further. What is his way to bring about change? Explosives..or Ideas??? Or Explosive Ideas?? Was he a danger to society…or may be he was one among the thousands of Citizens..who came ahead to support the fight against corruption..this 8th April. The man guided by peace and love is on his way to discovery..a rebellion that has arisen from within.

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It is well presented. Two old men, calling for freedom for their respective lands through protests against the occupying powers. Both with names starting with G and ending with I. Both having a big role in the struggle for freedom. It is a big fat lie. It is an insult to India's Satyagraha movement to accept this without objection. I haven't seen many people bring this up, and I think it needs said.

Let me begin with saying that I am biased. I think Geelani is one of the most evil people to exploit Kashmir in its history since 1947. Gandhi had his faults, but he never called for something he himself wouldn't do. Gandhi and his close associates stood at ground zero with protesters, not issued calendars. Gandhi had his faults - who doesn't, but using the success and recognition of the Satyagraha movement to legitimize organized rioting is an insult to India and a gross misguidance of Kashmir, which isn't going to help the moral fabric of the state whether in India or free or in Pakistan.

Some points that come to mind:

  • Gandhi didn't have an agenda to free India from the British and hand it over to another country. This can't be called a freedom struggle. Particularly when the country itself has a far worse human rights record and thinks nothing of killing Kashmiris as a part of their strategic depth.
  • Gandhi did not have hoodlums 'enforcing' his protests.
  • Gandhi had protested Hindu-Muslim riots, and empathized with the pain of both, not led the persecutor.
  • Gandhi did not excuse violence as a part of the non-violent movement. The entire nationwide non-cooperation movement was called off at the peak of its success when ONE incident at Chauri Chaura resulted in clashes between the police and the protesters and three protesters died. Geelani, what's your score? If hot blood was resulting in stone pelting and deatths, what did you do to prevent those innocents from dying? To ensure that the morality of your movement was beyond reproach?
  • Most importantly, Gandhi was a protester himself - out there on the street, courting lathis, courting arrests, risking his life like any other Satyagrahi. When was the last time Geelani stood defiantly asking for his rights along with his people?
  • Gandhi did not expect the British to see to the safety of the protesters. Six decades later, Geelani still reacts with expectation of not evil from people whom he declares evil.
  • Gandhi was of the people. There was no threat in contradicting him. He lived their life, ate their food, suffered their suffering. Did Geelani go hungry this winter because he was busy protesting in the summer?

It is sad today that India's activists who claim to stand for the rights of the people apparently only stand for the rights of people already vocal against the state. It is sad that they legitimize this kind of corruption of not just India's image (which is comparitively minor) but the spirit defining one of the worlds most successful and ethical resistances that inspired movements around the world.

As long as Geelani sits at home and declares days of protest in full awareness that the protesters will face bullets, he is nothing more than your garden variety gangster manipulating local events for fun and profit. A leader assumes responsibility for the well being of his people, not sets them up for situations likely to risk their lives.

Yes, the soldiers have done many wrongs. Yes, India has been unable to find a political resolution so far. Yes, India is guilty of neglect. Yes Kashmir is suffering. This doesn't total up to a butcher who sets Kashmiris up for more suffering to be their hero.

When dead bodies are advertisements, there is some organization also profiting from the results of that advertisement. I doubt if it is the person who died, or the others lined up to become advertisements.

And no, I'm not a Congress supporter. The congress of today is irrelevant to Gandhis satyagraha movement.

No, I'm not a Gandhian with a pen either. I'm only looking at the leadership of one successful mass movement.

I AM a fan of the concept of Satyagraha, which is what I am defending.