Twitter, Good bye

Below, I have copy-pasted the one thread I wrote on twitter that I would like to save as a reminder to self for staying away from social media for good. Blogging is fine, I would like an outlet, but I honestly don’t want to fight online.

I write this, as I mull the decision to delete my twitter handle @MedicalActivist.  The one big time sucker that social media has devolved into is the biggest ‘experiment-gone-heinously-wrong’ of this generation. You are only allowed echo chambers here.

One word of disagreement, and people will descend on you. It gets harder if you are holding your position individually, all by yourself. And have a real life outside of twitter. And people in that real life start to get affected by your upset mood, because of the fight that happened on your anonymous twitter account with another twitter account. In retrospect, being active on social media seems akin to being a fighter cock.

I will continue to blog, because I need an outlet for thoughts and also a place to compile things I would like to save for posterity.  In the past, I have come off of Facebook and a previous twitter handle. In sequence, the reasons were (1) political fights and (2) getting hounded for my address and times of returning home. So, I chose complete anonymity, as complete as I could make it. In the beginning, my tweets were written so carefully that most on the medium had trouble guessing my gender. My gender – female- became more apparent after my strong opposition to Hindu Traditionalists – a group, constituted largely by men, that believes in marrying girls off early to fight the decreasing Hindu population as compared to Muslims, that is okay with ideas like “Hindu women who marry outside the community should be burnt”.  I was still able to take most fights in my stride, until I disclosed my caste identity.

The copy-pasted portion below is the twitter thread I had written.

“Twitter has been a saddening experience, a rude shock that has left me disillusioned, altering my political views forever. I had always held that all the so-called lower castes need to do to override casteism and is to focus on academic,professional achievements. I had believed that by rising high by working hard, one can do away with labels that are stamped on one at birth. This had led me to believe the claims of casteism being a thing of the past, and that the so-called upper castes do not view anyone as “lower” anymore. From that baseline, stemmed all beliefs and actions. From that baseline, stemmed a very clear understanding of equality and its status as an inalienable human right. Equality of opportunity, equality of marriage, equality of genders. Hence, my avowed opposition to reservation of ANY kind. Compete on the same front, win and you will be respected as an equal, was a belief I stood by. I still think it is below me to seek accommodations of ANY kind. It adds to your confidence when you achieve things w/o crutches.”

On twitter, in conversations adorned with intellectualism, I felt I had met the best of people, until they revealed their casteism to me. It is increasingly a badge of honor for some here. Is it simply or it is too simplistic an adjective for a deeper malice?

I am now inclined to believe it is the latter. In a DM group, in which I was for most of 2016 and 2017, I came across comments like ” We UCs should band together for our benefits..”. I wondered what made the person decide everybody in the group was a UC (so-called upper caste). I asked, well, what is caste? Pat came the reply that it is now an economic class. Another person, a well-educated post-graduate in her field, said,”One child brahmin families have to terrorise our kid to get 98% “… b/c of reservation menace. FYI,non-brahmin, single child here. This person, had also said on public TL, “Upper castes were advanced because of their own hard work.” All comments had been made by women. One twitter scholar had proclaimed how brahmins are the most discriminated group today. When I pointed out humiliating casteist jokes, most in the group did not bother to acknowledge. Another twitter scholar graced a few tweets in that context with a few likes but did not use the huge following at disposal to broadcast opposition.”

Soon enough, I witnessed repeated instances of nauseating linguistic chauvinism. A bit of digging around confirmed my suspicions and our ways on twitter have since parted. In the months that ensued, I saw more and more instances of (Egs filed under hashtag). After my recent TL conversation with a lady, who incidentally reminds me of a namesake in that DM group with very similar views, I realized something. That people who were my friends, may not have opened up to me similarly, had they known my “caste”. Conversely, had “caste” been a primary aspect of my identity, I wouldn’t have had a chance to experience their views upfront. So here goes, at birth, I was labeled Shudra. Shudra. Shudra. Shudra. Shudra…..

When I first found out, aged 9 or 10, I had burst into tears. I still remember the sting of those tears. Why me? Later that year, when I changed schools, and still topped despite missing a few tests held earlier, the headmistress insisted on a surname for handing out certificates. My family hadn’t prepared me for the onslaught that followed. Who prepares a young school-going child for questions on surname? The headmistress wouldn’t budge. Her final shot was,”Are you ashamed of your surname?”

FYI, the school was so confident that a mid-term joinee couldn’t top that they hadn’t tallied my marks. I had to go fight for my certificates that day. Man, I learned this young. Years went by. I had friends prodding me, throughout my educational career, about my “jaat”. Random questions. “Tum Kayastha ho?” “Tum Brahmin ho?” So much so that, I was convinced that all I needed was a surname and things would be all right. Twitter – this place where words can be your only identity if you so choose – was a catharsis of sorts. Until I realized, that everybody assumed the same thing here. That I had to be an “Upper Caste”.If one is anti-left, anti-islamism, by some logic, they can only be “UC”. The invisibility struck me, deep within. I thought back to some sickening jokes I had seen people in my family crack, against other castes. Why? Why do you need to do that? That’s a silly way of seeking a reprieve.

Every time I opposed a casteist joke within my family — Shudra — I found out one more story of injustice and discrimination. Of people being failed in final pot-graduate exams once the examiner discovered their caste. Of being pursued for marriage till caste was discovered. Of a great-grandfather who showed the initiative under british raj to buy a zamindari, being made to stand by an upper-caste zamindar b/c it was beyond possible that he could be offered a seat. Is all this still casual enough to be labeled ? Stories of another great-grandfather who escaped slavery and starvation by fleeing to Kolkata and starting from the scratch. I shiver as I type all this — What use was their initiative and effort, if I am still facing problems of the same kind? What exactly changed? ZILCH.

This is my final take : Not only should the so-called lower caste give up its baggage of having been discriminated against, the so-called upper caste must shed its “caste pride” – basking in reflected glory of ancestors and current-day same caste members.  Unless you meet in the middle, there will be no way out of reservations. That is the only form of protection that is available to these groups. It is fair to call for an assessment of current day reservation schemes, to see they are indeed benefiting those they should.

But first, root the deeper evil out. End”

In the said twitter thread, content of which is copy pasted above, I had asked if those who carry so-called upper caste labels would give their surnames up. The answer was a resounding no with a lot of attendant viciousness. Most dehumanized my experiences and called them fake. They authoritatively declared that NOBODY identifies themselves as “Shudra” and people only identify themselves by the particular sub-caste they ‘belong’ to. I don’t hate any individual, but I would like it for people to at least empathize with those at the lowermost end of the caste hierarchy.

If opinions  are not allowed, what is the point of social media? I am happy in my little blog space.

To @Shudraism and @AbbakkaHypatia, thank you for standing by, though we don’t exactly belong to the same side of the political aisle. To Garima @gary_agg, your ground work is unbeatable and you are a lovely person. To @grim_malkin Vidhu and CholericCleric : Haha, guys. Wish I had more time to be friends with you.

To Manini and Abhijeet : Thank you, warmest regards to you both. Abhijeet : We can successfully ward the threats of regionalism off as long as people like you are around. Manini, milenge kabhi, iss janam mein pakka.

To @DrLatha, well, since you so readily agreed with @GhorAngirasa that “my inferiority complex is my problem”, I wonder what our extended, heart-to-heart conversations in the DM group were about. Did the medical opinions you sought of me –  twice – ever display incompetence or “an inferiority complex”? No, I can confidently say they didn’t . It doesn’t hurt to admit your own mistakes, once in a while. I was almost ready to disclose my identity to you, and then I found how ingrained the utterly flawed concept of ‘caste pride’  was in you. I wish you peace, and your child the success she clearly deserves.

To @Shanmukh, @sarkar_swati (Saswati) and @Dikgaj : Phew, what a ride. I had always been against striking, agitating, anything leftist. And yet,  I ended up in the no-good world of social media activism. As academic professors, here are a few things you should never do — instigate younger folks, recruit them, mold them, make them your foot soldiers.  As academic professors, you should be more open about accepting evidence that counters your stances and you should be more open about your stances getting countered. Nobody can know everything, you know. That includes all three of you.

To Hindu Traditionalists : I don’t have anything against any individual. My opposition is to the idea that you represent, not to the individuals you are. I am sure you are all good providers for your families.

To everybody : I am sure that all of you mentioned above are excellent providers for your families, that you are committed to raising them well and that should our paths ever cross in person, you and I will be courteous to each other, and help each other out. If this is an illusion, so be it. I would like for some illusions to stay.

To Myself : Remember this gross waste of time and energy. Remember that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Remember that not thinking too much is the more efficient thing to do. Remember that real people around you need you more than twitter handle owners you will likely NEVER meet.

 

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Before The Arrest

It has been quite a few hours since the dramatic arrest and the bail that almost wasn’t obtained. Everybody has had a piece of the pie called Abhijit Iyer-Mitra. It is now the time to digest in peace, all those pieces, for our gut health ; for the good gut health of THE INDIAN UNION.

A web-search will detail the simple chronology of The Arrest. It won’t readily compile The History Behind The Arrest, though. The latter is presented below, step-by-step.

Step 1 : The British, via the East India Company, grabbed firm control of large tracts of The India That Was, placing its capital in Kolkata. The Larger Society That Was, subjugated for long, had forgotten self-rule. The Local Opportunists That Were made good of the former’s ignorance, currying fast favor with the British, spreading around further rapidly than ever before in The Bengal Provinces That Were. That is, The Local Opportunists That Were spread out into The Assam That is and The Odisha That Is.

Step 2 : The Local Opportunists That Were wielded more and more power, molding the existing,local systems to their own needs. (Much like The Opportunists That Are.) Gradually, The Larger Society That Was, started realizing things. The Local Opportunists That Were, were usually Bengalis — the educated crust that spoke fine English and had met standards of western refinement. Their natural ascension up the government ladder and manipulation of local school systems to teach in Bangla, among others, was largely responsible for The Realization of The Larger Society That Was. The local Odias and the local Assamese decided that the Bengalis were their enemies.

Step 3 : The British were far-sighted. They knew how to stay on in a former colony for so long, that by the time it thought of decolonizing itself, it would be likely nearing its end. The political situation in The British Raj started to change with bold rebellions, often led by Bengalis, largely from the ‘The Larger Society That Was’ category, demonstrating crushing potential. They attempted a religious partition of Bengal, failed at it and moved their capital to The Delhi That Was And Is. They devoted themselves to find divisions that they could fan further – problems to which they would put out solutions for their own continuing stability and benefit.

Step 4 : In The Odisha That Was, there arose a doyen of literature called Fakir Mohan. He wrote magnificently in Odia, helping the rich language attain its own place of pride, amidst The Invasion of Foreign Languages like Bangla and Hindi. English was a vehicle of upward mobility and western rationalism, so it was considered apt for adoption and not resented as foreign by Fakir Mohan. To sort out their own differences, there were groups in The India That Was, that relied on the British.Their interest wasn’t in the attainment of freedom from The British Raj. Visionaries in one respect, they were utterly lacking in the other. Fakir Mohan Senapathy, the Utkal Byasa Kavi (The Grand Poet of Utkal), was one such historical figure. His growth and fan-following were the result of growing Odia pride among The Larger Society That Was, fueled by the indignation thrust by the likes of Pandit Kanti Chandra Bhattacharya, who wrote a repulsing pamphlet titled “Udiya Ekti Swatantray Bhasha Noi” (Odia is not an independent language).

Step 5 : By the second decade of the 1900s, the spirit of linguistic pride became very strong across vast areas of The India That Was. The British used it as a nice pretext to enable closer administration with sharper scrutiny to root out the first signs of another ‘mutiny’. Here’s a timeline of crucial events that followed. 

1912 → Bengal Provinces were divided into Bihar and Odisha Provinces,with Hindi and Odia speakers thus being separated from the Bangla-speaking population. The first seeds of linguistic divisions had now sprouted.
1917 → The British discontinued the use of Modi script for writing Marathi officially citing administrative difficulties. They switched to using only the Balabodh style of Devanagari script for Marathi, which was already an alternative style for writing the language in.

1925 → The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is formed by Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. He forms the organization with the intention of uniting The India That Was, which was at the time getting divided further due to multiple reasons, the iron-clad provincial divisions based on majoritarian linguistic preference, being one among them. (This is an important background to understand for the RSS’ continued push for the spread of Sanskritized Hindi as a unifying language — the majority spoke it and understood it. The Urduization of colloquial Hindi is a post-90s bollywood phenomenon.)

1936 → A separate Odisha/Orissa Province is carved out of the combined Bihar and Odisha Provinces, with the addition of a few more districts.

(As an interesting aside, note that Rabindranath Tagore, himself a Bengali, recognized an Utkal separate and distinct from ‘Banga’, when he wrote ‘Jana Gana Mana’ in 1911, a year before the first time a separate Odisha province, along with Bihar province, was officially formed. “Punjab Sindhu Gujarat Maratha Dravid Utkal Banga.”)

Step 6 : The India That Was inched towards complete freedom from British Raj, finally achieving it in 1947. The provinces of Ajmer-Merwara-Kekri, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Bihar, Bombay, Central Provinces and Berar, Coorg, Delhi, Madras, Panth-Piploda, Orissa, and the United Provinces, stayed with Newly Independent Post-Partition India in 1947, along with regions of Bengal, Assam and Punjab.

Step 7 : The acquisition of princely states in a Newly Independent Post-Partition India led to chaos as each had its own administrative set-up and the language in which work was executed. The average person doesn’t fully understand a major historical event when it occurs, or the impact his actions and emotions will have on the society as a whole. The average person wants to exist, smoothly, in continuity with the former. No wonder, the average society at large wanted to retain its original linguistic make-up. Keeping with this, the Indian National Congress in its manifesto in 1945-1946 promised the formation of linguistic states, essentially carrying on the structure of the British Raj. Administrative ease was the easy answer to all questions in this regard. Also, language, closely tied to culture, which had for so long been subjugated by The British, was a matter of pride. Religion had bloodied and scarred the young democracy already with The Partition. Caste and casteism were the evils that needed to be abolished. Linguistic diversity was the sacred endowment to The Indian Nation that needed to be preserved, quite correctly.

Step 8 : Newly Independent Post-Partition India’s government, headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, began getting uncomfortable about creating more divisions among the people of the Young Nation, even if it were on the basis of languages. In 1948, the then President of India Rajendra Prasad, constituted The Dhar Commission, headed by a retired judge of the Allahabad High Court, SK Dhar. It said, “the formation of provinces on exclusively or even mainly linguistic considerations is not in the larger interests of the Indian nation.” It recommended the reorganization of states of the Newly Independent Post-Partition India on the basis of ‘geographical continuity, financial self-sufficiency, administrative convenience and capacity for future development.’ There was a public outcry following this report. The public wanted to retain their linguistic divisions and ‘uniqueness.’

Step 9 : Mr Nehru decided to give in and overlooked the recommendations of the Dhar Commission. A new committee called JVP committee was formed, consisting of Jawaharlal Nehru himself, Vallabhbhai Patel and Pattabhi Sitaramaiyya. They took a shaky, middle stand, saying, “If public sentiment is insistent and overwhelming, we, as democrats, have to submit to it, but subject to certain limitations in regard to the good of India as a whole.”

Step 10 : Potti Sreeramulu, an ardent follower of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, had dedicated himself to Gandhi’s Satyagraha. Drawing public sympathy and attention to a cause, by fasting or going on a hunger strike, had become a fairly known political practice, one that all administrations dreaded. In a nation that revered sacrifice, giving up essential meals, risking one’s life for a political cause, was a huge move. The public anger that had erupted when the revolutionary Jatin Das died as a result of hunger strike, was still fresh in everybody’s minds. Potti Sreeramulu who had in the past, fasted for Dalit upliftment, began a fast demanding separate statehood for Telugu speakers of the Madras province. On 15-16 December, 1952, he died due to his fast. Southern India went up in arms, enraged at Nehru’s apathy. (To set the record straight, Nehru had constantly disapproved of the fast.). Separate state of Andhra, for the Telugu speakers residing in the northern areas of the Madras Presidency was recognized almost immediately. The result was expected : other linguistic-majority groups demanded to follow suit.

Step 11 : Probably as a heralder of the red-tapism that has come to characterise Indian politics and bureaucracy, yet another committee was appointed to resolve the matter, in 1953. This new committee, that came to be known as the States Reorganization Committee, was headed by Fazl Ali, a native of Bihar. It recommended states to be set up taking into account the 4 factors of :

  1. The representation and strengthening of the unity and security of India.
  2. Linguistic and Cultural homogeneity
  3. Financial, Economic and Administrative considerations.
  4. The successful working of the National Plan.

Its recommendations served as the basis of formation of states, as legislated by the States Reorganization Act,1956. Notably, though a lot of other newly formed states were modified boundary-wise, Odisha wasn’t touched. Given the turmoil that had preceded its formation in 1936, Odisha stayed as is. The states thus created in 1956 were Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Bombay, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Madras, Mysore, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The six union territories were Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands, Manipur and Tripura. The Commission rejected the theory of “one language, one state” and  said,”it is neither possible nor desirable to reorganise States on the basis of the single test of either language or culture, but that a balanced approach to the whole problem is necessary in the interest of our national unity.” As a part of this balanced approach, they recommended safeguarding rights of linguistic minorities within a region to conduct primary education in their native language, but emphatically called for measures to repudiate the linguistic “home land” concept, which negates one of the fundamental principles of The Indian Constitution, namely , equal opportunities and equal rights for all citizens throughout the length and breadth of the Indian Union.

Step 12 : KM Munshi, a Gujarati, was opposed to the inclusion of Bombay presidency in Maharashtra, saying that “the political ambition of a linguistic group can only be satisfied by the exclusion and discrimination of other linguistic groups within the area. No safeguards and no fundamental rights can save them from the subtle psychological exclusion which linguism implies.” A prominent figure in support of linguistic bases of state reorganization, was none other than Mr Bhimrao Ambedkar, who despite having faced humiliating discrimination on the basis of caste by his own linguistic kinsmen, was a proponent of Marathi nationalism.

This backdrop should explain a lot of current day events to the green-horned voters of The India That Is. It should explain how Shiv Sena came to be, riding on the “Marathi Manoos”, who suddenly in Newly Independent Post-Partition India, could no longer exist in harmony with his Gujarati neighbours of at least a hundred years. It should explain why Rajendra Prasad became a proponent of Hindi as a unifying language, much to the detriment of Bhojpuri, Magahi and Maithili, in his native Bihar. It should explain why there was a time in Bihar State Board Curriculum, that as a part of the National Integration coursework, Telugu was taught to students. Interestingly, seemingly as a reactionary measure to the increasing “homeland” concept among other linguistically formed states, Bihar, at the time of its industrial peak, had rules against allowing non-Biharis to get admitted as medical students to the state’s medical colleges. (Further elaborations on this surprising rule in the current context of Bihar’s backwardness are reserved for a later post). It has meant that along with Jammu and Kashmir, as a result of the special status accorded to it per Article 35(a), Andhra Pradesh was, at least for a very long time, exempt from the burden of sharing 15% of seats in its medical colleges with the rest of India, under the allocation of seats based on the results of All India Pre-Medical Test. It explains why the southern states erupt now and then, in the demands for a ‘United States of South India’. At the time when states reorganization discussion was at its peak, there actually had been demands for dividing the country into an Uttara Pradesh and a non-Hindi speaking Dakshina Pradesh. This backdrop should also explain why the local Asomiya was rather happy about long inhabiting Bengalis of the region getting excluded from the National Register of Citizens that was brought out recently. It should explain why language politics has continued to be one of the most lethal weapons of Indian politics,often culminating in violence against the poorest migrants, often variably hailing from the now impoverished state of Bihar. The all too frequent violence against the Bihari migrant worker today, the violence against the Gujarati businessmen of a bygone Bombay and the continuing feelings of animosity against Bengalis in the eastern states, to mention some instances, does remind one of the rationale of The Fazl Ali Committee behind rejecting the concept of monolingualism and the linguistic homeland. The fears of linguistic devotions overpowering the sense of integrity and belongingness to the Union of India, as expressed by both The Dhar Commission and The Fazl Ali Committee, are increasingly proving prophetic. Their concern that linguistic domination of a state effectively negates the fundamental right of Indian citizens to move freely anywhere across the length and breadth of The Indian Union, live anywhere, buy property anywhere and earn a living anywhere, is increasingly gaining a worrisome relevance.

And to some extent, it should explain why Abhijit Iyer-Mitra’s satirical tweets could be projected in the Odia local media in such a manner that feathers could be ruffled. The Mitra in his name makes apparent the possibility of his Bengali parentage. His tweets could readily be seen as coming from a place of malice, looking down upon Odia pride, which had re-emerged in the 19th century, by aiming to oust the prevalent Bengali influence.

Here’s a word about the intersection of Hindu nationalism and linguistic chauvinism : tread carefully on it. Do note the religion of tweeple who call for more and more linguistic divisions. Be it the Gorkhaland movement in Bengal, the Madhesiya agitation in the hill nation of Nepal, or of late, an increasing demand (at least on social media) to divide Bihar one more time to create a separate Mithila state (projecting often, purely artificial fights against Bhojpuri speaking people), note if there are any people who belong to a particular religious community, with their hatred of India and love of their religion supreme, on full display. There is a reason why the non-Urdu speaking Pashmanda Muslims are publicized. It diverts attention from the increasing (Saudi) Arabization and Islamization of the Muslims of India. Of course, The Local Opportunists There Are, are in cahoots. Rather foolishly, The Hindu, the embodiment of all diversity there can be, is falling prey to the designs of his nation’s enemies. Intensifying linguistic divisions will threaten the integrity and security of the Indian Union, as the support for further divisions of this nature is often lent the strength of numbers by those who hate the very existence of the Indian Union.

The human civilization invented language to communicate and unify more, not to widen rifts. Keep that in mind.

 

Why I support repealing IPC 377?

‘A Suitable Boy’ is one of my favorite novels, and its author Vikram Seth, one of my favorite authors. It would only take a simple web search to see how accomplished and erudite he is. His sexual orientation is that of a bisexual – physically and emotionally, he is attracted to both men and women.

Neil Patrick Harris and Ricky Martin are both very talented, entertainment industry giants with large fan followings (and net worths, too). Both are openly homosexual and have fathered biological children with the help of a surrogate mother. Ricky Martin has had as many break-ups and make-ups, in terms of relationships, as his heterosexual counterparts in the glitz and glamour business. Neil Patrick Harris is in a committed relationship. Their family pictures are available on the internet, as adorable as any other.

Tim Cook, the Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc, is a homosexual man. Incidentally, like a chunk of guys on Indian twitter, he holds a Bachelor degree in engineering along with a MBA.

The current defence minister of Ireland, Mr Leo Varadkar, raised catholic, born of a Hindu father, Dr Ashok Varadkar, and catholic mother, identifies as a homosexual man. He studied medicine at the Trinity College Dublin and is in a long-term committed relationship with another physician Dr Matthew Barrett. By no measure of imagination, is studying medicine anywhere in the world, an easy task.

All of these men are very accomplished. None of them are heterosexual.
In one of my recent twitter threads , I compiled many more stories of homosexual men in committed relationships.

The examples above are of highly successful individuals, who happen to be gay. That is all that sexual orientation is. A happenstance. It shouldn’t matter so much to anybody.

The parents of all individuals mentioned above and in my twitter thread, more likely than not, realized this. They supported their children in their professional and personal quests, knowing fully well that caged minds and spirits, much like caged birds, can’t fly. They did not allow sexual orientation of their children to dominate their lives. Much like the parents of heterosexual children, these parents treated their children as normal.

So, when I support the repeal of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexuality, I support the love and courage of these parents. I support future freedoms for my own children, so that their pre-occupations lie with wonders of science, magic of literature and thrill of sports, not their sexuality and sexual orientation, whichever direction it is in. Parents don’t obsess over the heterosexuality of their offspring, they shouldn’t have to worry about their homosexuality or bisexuality either. Justice Leila Seth, Vikram Seth’s mother, summarized it beautifully in her memoir,“ It’s very lonely for a child who doesn’t have the understanding of a parent. As a mother, one must understand that such a child will grow up lonely and introverted unless he is accepted by his family.”

I am both a rationalist and a conservative. Indeed, it is possible to be both. I question quite a bit. Sanatan Dharma, firmly planted in reason and sound logic, offers most answers. I continue to adhere to traditions which pass the rationale test, with greater conviction and reverence. As a corollary, I also reject traditions which don’t seem rational to me. As further more of a corollary, if something appeals to my logical thought process, I do not look for validation of the same in traditions, and by extension, in scriptures. Do I seek validation in existing evidence-based, current-day science? Yes, to a huge extent. If doubts still exist, I choose to be guided by my conscience and the benefits that would accrue to my children, in due course of time.

Hence, I no longer seek justification in ‘homo-erotic’ sculptures of Khajuraho, the treatise of Kama Sutra or the legends of Mohini-Ayappan, for my support of the decriminalization of homosexuality. I support it because it is the rational thing to do – to let two consenting adults be.

Consent and age of majority are the supreme qualifiers in my stance. Repealing IPC Section 377 is not supporting pedophilia — that IS A CRIME. Decriminalizing homosexuality would lead to the legal recognition of its existence, and thus pave the way for extension of Vishakha Guidelines to cover sexual harassment of men by men, at the workplace. The entertainment and fashion industry is not the only place where male-male sexual harassment takes place. It is surprisingly common in regular, white collar professions too. The lack of legal protection only shames the male victims into silence and continued suffering. Regardless of gender and sexual orientation, everybody has a private, physical space that they hold sacrosanct. Regardless of gender and sexual orientation, nobody likes being violated.

Many in the practice of allopathic medicine are also given to incorrect beliefs regarding homosexuality. The case of Dr Shashwat Pande’s murder, allegedly by his gay lover, Dr Suyash Gupta, in Delhi’s St Stephen’s Hospital is a case in point. I still can’t wrap my head around reports that Dr Shashwat Pande, a radiology resident, was put on anti-psychotic medication – medications that aim to manage schizophrenia – after learning of his homosexuality. That was a criminally wrong prescription. Note that both of them did have the ability to study medicine and enter post-graduate training in radiology, one of the most sought after specialties. I see no example where sexuality serves to impair intellectual faculties.

I am also a conservative. I believe in the institution of marriage, in long-term sexual monogamy, in raising a family with children. I believe in bequeathing a legacy, and inheriting a history ; in honoring ancestors and nurturing successors. From this standpoint as well, decriminalizing homosexuality and allowing same sex-marriage is the correct thing to do. Only when such unions are normalized, can adherence to the society’s honor code of fidelity and loyalty be expected of them. These are values which are unfortunately getting eroded in heterosexual marriages as well, which otherwise have complete social and legal sanction. Datasets studying homosexual marriages would be severely limited by their small sample sizes, given that it is only recently that such marriages have been legalized in most countries. It would be incorrect to draw any conclusions from them at this stage. Meanwhile, can we allow absolutely normal adults to suffer as they watch their youth pass them by? Why do you think promiscuity and jealousy are projected as dominant features of homosexual relationships, often with the intent to forge mass opposition against them? My submission is that the lack of familial and societal acceptance drives these individuals towards loneliness and instability, leading to such behavior. If these individuals were intrinsically damaged, would they have been able to achieve anything at all? The examples I put forward, portray a very different story.

I would also like to reiterate something I have elaborated upon in my twitter thread ; that decriminalizing IPC section 377, is also an effective protection of women’s rights. When homosexual men would no longer cast doubts over their own selves, when they would no longer have to hide their sexuality behind the facade of normalcy (which by default is understood to be heterosexuality), the unsuspecting women, who they would otherwise take as spouses, would be protected from fraudulent marriages. The story of Manvendra Singh Gohil, who tweets at @PrinceRajpipla , is a case in point. He himself believed that marriage to a girl would make him ‘normal’. The marriage ended in divorce, as it couldn’t be consummated in 7 years. I have no idea how easy or hard was it for his former wife to recover from that chapter of her life. For AIIMS-based anesthesiologist, Dr Priya Vedi, married to allegedly a homosexual dermatologist, Dr Kamal Vedi, the sense of being cheated was too much to bear. She committed suicide.

My twitter profile’s display picture is that of Yashoda Maiyya, with Bal Krishna, in her lap. The image appeals to me because it conveys the spirit of motherhood – an entity, a state of being and an emotion, which I hold above all else. It is scary and taxing, yet something I can’t imagine my life without – motherhood. To leave the planet richer with healthy children behind, is one of the parameters by which I would define success in my life, in addition to winning the respect of people I regard as intelligent. (That sentence is a rip-off from a quote I read somewhere as a teenager, but again, it is one that strikes a resonant chord with my soul.) Naturally, I do have principles in mind, by which I would like to raise my children.
स्थितप्रज्ञ, सामर्थ्य, साहस, सदाचार, सद्बुद्धि व स्वातंत्र्य — would be those guiding principles. These principles, my hopes for my progeny and my medical training, shape almost all of my views and stands. I realize that children who win, have the support of mothers who believe in them. It is for the sake of our children, for them to be free of one more unnecessary shackle, that I support the repeal of IPC Section 377.

मनुर्भव: जन्य दैवम् जनम् (Be Human, make other divine)
The Rig Veda (X.53.6)

A Poem for the Brutally Murdered Indics Everywhere

कलजुगनी माता

ढीठ कपूत पर न्योछावर, दुष्टों की सेवा में तत्पर,
अपमानकर्ता से लाड़ लड़ातीं,यह कलजुगनी माता हैं।

इस माँ के मन में पंजे-मुट्ठी की उँगलियों में भेद है,
कनिष्ठतम् अंगुल पाँव का काटने में न इसे खेद है।
चक्षु दर्शनशास्त्री, मनीष-मस्तिष्क, हरेक देता साथ है,
जो अंगुल ना लचीला न सजीला, अपना हनन उसी का अपराध है।

उत्तक-कोषिकाओं का अंग-अंग से स्वर यही,
दिया अम्मा ने छोटे को दंड एकदम सही।
छोटे के कारण ही सुंदर जूता फ़िट नहीं आता था,
पॉलिश लगवाने में सर्वाधिक भाव वही खाता था।
नख-कर्तनी में इसकी विशेष कौशल लगता था,
बाक़ी सीधे-सुडौल, यही मुआ विकृत दिखता था।

वार्ता चली, सह विश्वास था,
अम्मा हर्निया का ऑपरेशन अब करवा ही लेंगी।
जब अनुशासनहीन छोटे को नहीं बक्शा,
तो पक्का करेंगी सड़न-जनक हर्निया से स्वरक्षा।
हँसने में भय, खाँसने में भय, वर्षों माँ तड़पीं थीं,
लेटकर उठने की पीड़ाभीति से, चैन की नींद को तरसीं थीं।
वीभत्स अंश पर अपनत्व कैसा? उसे त्यागने की अब बारी,
अभ्यास मंगल है साहस का, करो सुश्रुत शल्य-चिकित्सा की तैयारी।

पर यह क्या, माँ अब भी आशंकित हैं!
बोलीं,
बेटा, ‘छोटे’ तो मूक था, आँतड़ियाँ हाहाकार मचाती हैं।
मूक? मूक नहीं था माँ, नियंत्रण में नहीं रहता था
वैसे ही जैसे आँतड़ियाँ नहीं सुनती।
किंतु बेटा, हर्निया का ऑपरेशन ज़्यादा भीषण है,
उसे हैंडल करने की न मेरी कंडीशन है।

अचंभित अष्टांग, चक्षु-मस्तिष्क असमंजस में,
कि तभी ऑर्थोपेडिक सर्जन से अम्माँ बतियाने लगीं।
बोलीं, बात आई मन में कि न कत्थक में न तांडव में,
न क्रीड़ा न रण में, बिन छोटे के वो बल होगा तन में।
था ‘छोटा’ किंतु तनिक तो कुछ योगदान था, अत:
भरपाई का प्रॉस्थेटिक अंगुल लगवाने का विचार है,
विलायती सर्जन खड़ा नि:शुल्क चिकित्सा को तैयार है।

किंकर्तव्यविमूढ़ पहले, अब माथा-मस्तिष्क सभी ठनके,
ग्लानि-शोक में डूबे सब, क्यों छोटे को बचाया नहीं तब,
योग-ध्यान-व्यायाम से सिखाया न कभी उसे ताल-मेल,
प्रॉस्थेटिक रिहैबिलिटेशन के अब होंगे करोड़ों होंगे खेल।

अचानक अर्ध-मूर्च्छित स्त्री का रुग्ण-क्रंदन सुनाई पड़ा।
माँ?! माँ तुम यहाँ हो?
तो वो कौन हैं जो स्वास्थ्य-मंत्रणा में लीन हैं?

कराहकर माँ बोलीं,
चिकने-चुपड़े तत्वविज्ञानी अंधपन में,
तुम भी भुला गए मृगमरिच्छिका के वन में।
छोटा अंगुल तुमसे भिन्न था,
किंतु नैसर्गिक सृजन का वह भी चिन्ह था।
सगी माँ उसे क्यों काटेगी,
छिपकली की पूँछ सा संकट में झट से अलग हो जाए,
ऐसे कृत्रिम अंग से अपना प्रेम क्यों बाँटेगी!
हर्निया की सड़न-जन्य रक्तविषंणता अब व्याप्त है,
मृत्यु निश्चित है अम्माँ की, कहना पर्याप्त है,
पद्म-पंखुड़ियों से सुसज्जित सुगंधित
उस मोहिनी पर तुम सारे यूँ मुग्ध हुए,
अपनी माँ को ना ढूँढा ना पहचाना,
ना उसकी वास्तविक पीड़ा से क्षुब्ध हुए।

माँ देह छोड़ चुकीं थीं,
मस्तिष्क-हृदय-चक्षु की गति अब धीमी थी।
विदेशी सर्जन फ़ोन घुमा रहा था, आवाज़ आई……
“अंग-दान के लिए यही समय उचित है,
अगले छह घंटों में इस पार्थिव शरीर से,
‘ऑर्गन्स हारवेस्ट’ कर लो।
विश्व मेरी जयजयकार करेगा कि,
एक खिसियानी बुढ़िया की मौत से,
मैंने कितनों को जीवनदान दिया है।”

– डॉ अरिहंत आनंद

 

Facts in the recent killings of Dera Saccha Sauda followers, congregated on the roads to protest against the conviction of their spiritual-religious leader, are still unraveling. There are hints of arms being found inside the Dera premises while the official newspaper of Dera Saccha Sauda called ‘Sach Kahoon’ has claimed that all those arms were licensed and have now been deposited with the police. Nevertheless, it’s notable how the masses unbacked by Christo-Islamist leagues face the state’s deadly wrath, when they dare to raise their voices against a perceived injustice.

The poem above, written in colloquial Hinglish by me, attempts to summarize the inequality the subaltern Indics – followers of native dharmas of Bharatvarsha- are subjected to. This poem would apply as much to Jats who were shot at, during the Jat Reservation Agitation, and to the agitating Gorkhas of West Bengal, who CM Mamta Bannerjee denied were killed by police firing. The intention of this poem is not to support the demands of the brutalized masses, but to highlight how non-Muslim, non-Christian agitators are targeted by the Indian State.

Surely, this Bharat Mata must be one of Kalyuga, to discriminate among its progeny like this. Worse, there are some sons of the soil, more polished than the aforementioned victims, who don’t disapprove of such unequal brutality. Perhaps, they hope that the State would soon treat Jihadis, Islamists and trouble-mongering evangelists with the same iron rod, and enforce a uniform discipline. This poem hopes to shake them out of their naivete, written as it was by me, while coming out of my own.

Anti-Hindu Content in Fiction-based Hindi TV shows and Hindi cinema : Bhaang is the way

Fiction is powerful. Mass media is powerful. Fiction, widely broadcast by televised media, is powerfulest.

Powerfulest isn’t a word by the rules of standard English. This impropriety of language wouldn’t matter to the creators of the aforementioned brand of fiction. They rarely play by rules. It is central to their need to push boundaries of their craft. In egalitarian ‘Utopia’, such mutinous creativity would have spurred magnificent productions, spanning all imaginable – and unimaginable- genres, ideologies and narratives. Quite the contrary has happened in pseudo-secular, anti-Hindu India.

Entertainment-based programming has been, since long, hijacked by anti-Hindu connotations, under the cover of largely Hindu-appearing characters. Exclude the likes of Mahabharat and Ramayan, (which are passed off as mythology, instead of being accorded their rightful place as Hindu history) and shows like Bajirao Peshwa, which are mercifully termed historical and allowed air-time. Exclude shows like ‘Mann mein hai vishwas’ as they focus on miracles whose truthfulness can only be attested to by those who witnessed or experienced them. There are almost no television shows or entertainment pieces, including commercials, in the Indian media space which depict the strength of Hindu ethos and culture in everyday lives of simple characters. Worse, islamist narratives have been subtly pushed throughout.

Creative license is criminally exploited. In the industries of TV and Cinema, the practice of non-corroboration with facts has been legitimized with the following ‘disclaimer’ : ‘All the characters, incidents and places in this film are fictitious. Resemblance to any person living or dead or any incident or place is purely coincidental.’ A sample picture of one such disclaimer is attached below.
Islamist capture popular media_disclaimer pic_9

Such instances abound. It will be a cumbersome read to accommodate them into one blog piece. Hence, in each article in this series, I will address one major theme.

The vacuous, liberal opposition to the Hindu ritual of offering milk to The Shivling has been effectively countered on social media. However, the bastardization of the Hindu festivals of Holi and Mahashivratri by depicting ‘bhaang’ consumption as indispensable and integral parts of their observance, has been largely neglected. This particular blog piece focuses on that.

There are multiple religious beliefs associated with the celebration of Holi, one of them being that Lord Shiva burned Kamadeva with the fire emanating from his third eye, when Kamadeva’s antics angered Him. To pacify and please Shiva on Holi, devotees make His favorite offerings to the Shivling – milk, water, honey, ghee, sugar, incense-dhoopbattis , ‘bel-patra’ and any white-colored flowers available, since the purity of the color white is  associated with Lord Shiva.  There are devotees who insist on offering the dhatura i.e. Datura stramonium to the Shivlinga.  Offering dhatura symbolizes Lord Shiva’s magnanimity in ridding the world of the poison that was produced during the Samudra-Manthan, by drinking all of it himself, thus manifesting as NeelKantha. The offerings of  bel-patra and dhatura, made to the Shivlinga are not meant for consumption as prasad. This is certainly what I have observed in my family and community. The blog, whose snapshot is attached here, also says the same. Please refer to the blog mentioned in the inserted picture below, for further details. [1]

Some commoners have indeed come to associate bhaang as a legit way of celebration. It may be a way to get this ‘socially acceptable drug high’ on that one day. (Refer to this point made in the attached picture below, clipped from hinduexistence dot org)

IslamicCapturePopularMedia_14_bhaang_accepted by some

As a result, irrespective of the religious communities the financiers and the creative commanders belong to, ‘Bhole Baba’s prasad – the bhaang laced lassi’ has come to be employed as a cliched tool to get the protagonists to confess their feelings via song-and-dance sequences (often aided by the play of colors in Holi scenes!) – without much opposition from Hindus.

For  refreshing readers’ memories, a few specific examples follow.

(1) The song ‘Jai Jai Shiv Shankar’ from the 1974 movie Aap ki Kasam had Mumtaz and Rajesh Khanna gyrating after being offered bhaang-prasad on MahaShivratri by a Hindu priest.

(2) The song ‘Rang barse bheege chunarwali’ from Yash Chopra’s  Silsila, released in 1981, was filmed on bhaang-high characters, unable to hide their adultery any longer.

(3) Qubool Hai was a muslim social drama that glorified and humanized polygamy which is legally permitted to muslims in India. Incidentally, it aired on RS MP Subhash Chandra owned channel Zee TV. Its episode 497, aired on 23rd September 2014, showed the lead characters – one a muslim guy, the other a girl who has grown up Hindu but doesn’t know yet that she is  muslim – break into what the audience is expected to interpret as romantic frolicking, after a group of red-mauli-and-orange-bandana-donning-Har-Har-Mahadev-chanting men offer ‘Bhole Baba ka prasad’ to them. (Watch 2:22 onward. The video is available on YouTube.)

In examples (1) and (3) above, the placement of the Hindu pandit and the bandana-sporting men is meant to convey the message that the consumption of bhaang is religiously sanctioned for all Hindus, their professional and personal goals and status, notwithstanding. Such scenes also seek to convey that all Hindus would gladly partake of ‘bhaang’.

Take into account the following theories of sociological communication mentioned below [2]

islamistCapturePopularMedia_10_socio comm theoriesIslamistCapturePopularMedia_11_socio comm theories

All of the above theories underscore the importance of authentic portrayals on popular mass media.

In 1965, UNESCO published a report titled ‘ The effects of television on children and adults’, prepared by the International Association for Mass Communication Research, Amsterdam. [3] On page 13, the report notes that ‘Television has the  its maximum psychological effect on children, when (1) The values or viewpoints recur from program to program; (2) The values are presented in dramatic form so
that they evoke emotional reactions; (3) They link with the child’s immediate needs and
interests ; (4) The viewer tends to be uncritical of, and attached to, the medium (e. g. , he has not developed ‘adult discount’ ) ; (5) The viewer, through his friends, parents, or
immediate environment, is not already supplied with a set of values which would provide a standard against which to assess the views offered on television.

Since cinema also repeats the same stereotypes and messages, its effect on youngsters’ minds wouldn’t be too different from that of television. Do consider that most movies are now easily available on the internet and reasonably priced DVDs, for unlimited, repetitive consumption at will.

It should be easy to imagine that the more urban Hindu society loses touch with rooted traditions, the more readily its youth will accept cinematic interpretations and its exaggerated falsehoods, as the truth. The depiction of bhaang-consumption as normal during Holi and MahaShivratri may have started as an innocent creative implement to move stories forward, but if unquestioned and unchecked, the practice has a clear risk of being considered as normal, to be subsequently indulged in, in reality as well.

Many Hindi TV shows are broadcast in other countries after being dubbed into the respective languages. Many are uploaded on YouTube and DailyMotion where anybody with internet connectivity can watch them. Sometimes , such videos have people asking other users for meanings of certain dialogues. At other times, viewers exclaim in the comments section how they don’t understand the language but like watching those shows and movies as they are fascinated by ‘Indian’ (read Hindu) culture. Some try to learn Hindi by watching these shows. Hindi movies have long had a solid fan following in countries of the former USSR, and are constantly expanding their viewership. For those viewers, unaware of the practices of every day Hindus, what they watch can certainly influence their understanding of Hindus, Hinduism and India.

As a result, The Atlantic reported in an article titled ‘India’s ‘high’ holiday’, that “During Holi, Hindus welcome spring with bursts of color and marijuana-laced treats.” [4] It used a bhaang-vendor’s statements and a Bollywood song’s lyrics (attached in the snapshot below) to drive the point home. Because bollywood songs “extol virtues of bhaang”, it must be an indispensable component of Holi, seems to be the assumption. The article quoted a Hinduism expert from the University of Florida, who  said of bhaang-consumption : “It is still considered a vice, but because of this sacred association with Shiva, it’s considered respectable.”

IslamistCapturePopularMedia_16_bhaang_atlantic article

Islamic capture popular media_6_Koyla lyrics on bhaang
The lyrics of the Bollywood song the article references

The article also attempted to link ‘chillum smoking’ by naga sadhus as being the basis for ‘general acceptance of bhaang consumption by Hindus.’ To gain a better understanding of the practice of chillum smoking by naga sadhus and its criticism from within the sadhu community itself, do read ‘The Chillum Question’ on HinduismToday dot com. [5]

Let alone youngsters and foreigners, adult Hindus too are utterly confused by such portrayals. Sample this clipped page from a travel agent’s website :

Islamic capture popular media_4_bhaang confusion hindu travel agent

Or this, where columnist Arvind Passey’s wife Specky responded to his rough draft on the ‘Legends of Holi’ by observing the religious aspects of Holi “seem unreal” because Holi has become a “Bollywood party” where “bhaang and bawdiness go hand-in-hand” :

IslamistCapturePopularMedia_17_bhaang_holi_huffpost

If the suave urban Hindu has already forgotten what Holi is really about, popular media has won its self-started propaganda war.

Come to think of it – how many people do you know across castes, who consider consuming bhaang as an essential religious component of Holi or MahaShivratri celebrations? Very few is my guess. In fact, I have seen people inquiring servers and organizers to ensure that the sweets they consume during community gatherings on such occasions DO NOT contain any bhaang. Even if there are people who must revel in bhaang to complete their Shiva-bhakti, is that the central aspect of festivities? Certainly not!

Rarely are scenes filmed to depict in depth, Holika-dahan and its significance, or the openness of traditional Hindu society in accepting the inter-mingling of all genders by encouraging everybody to play Holi together, or the morals drawn from the stories associated with Holi, or the practice of making gujiyas for Holi, or the evening visits to the homes of relatives and friends after the colorful Holi revelry, or the arduous, overnight fast on the night of MahaShivratri that requires extreme dedication and patience, or the fact that Holi is celebrated as Hindu New Year by some communities. The list can continue endlessly.

Instead, the focus is bhaang and the associated hooliganism. It may soon become a new stick to beat us with and attempt to shame us into not observing those festivals.

I will leave you with these lines from Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ :

“The television is ‘real’. It is immediate, it has dimension. It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right. It seems so right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest, ‘What nonsense!’.”

Hence, each one of us must fight to ensure that narratives which dominate popular media are thoroughly, and authentically, Hindu, both within and outside. This series is my individual attempt in that direction.

 

References:

[1]  http://kk-bhai.blogspot.com/2015/05/dhatura-flowers-and-fruits-datura.html

[2] HK Mehraj, AN Bhat, HR Mehraj / Impacts of Media on Society : A Sociological Perspective/ International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Innovation 2014; Volume 3 Issue 6; Pg 56-64 ; Retrieved from http://www.ijhssi.org/papers/v3(6)/Version-4/L0364056064.pdf

[3] http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0005/000595/059558eo.pdf

[4] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/03/indias-high-holiday/284448/

[5] The Chillum Question/ Hinduism Today Magazine Web Edition / July/August/September 2013 accessible at : https://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=5412

[This is the second article in the series ‘Islamist capture of popular media’. The first article in the series is posted here]

‘Among the Believers’ and its Hindu director

The much publicized and much awarded documentary ‘Among the Believers’ (not based on VS Naipaul’s book of a similar name), merits a review from the Hindu standpoint. Throughout the article, I have refrained from capitalizing the ‘p’ of pakistan as it is no longer a proper noun. It’s common to find many of them, within our own country.

AmongBelievers_1

The advertising tagline is misleading. It says,”Take an eye-opening look at the battle between fundamentalism and secularism in Pakistan.” It should rather have said .”Look how average pakistani muslims are mad that the Taliban is now attacking them instead of kaffirs.” This documentary does nothing for the cause of the Hindus repeatedly targeted by Islam. Where’s the secularism the tagline is referring to?
‘Among The Believers’ is a clever attempt to differentiate between ‘moderate and extremist muslims’ and between their versions of Islam. It focuses on the ‘moderate reformers’ within the pakistani society, namely Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, a nuclear physicist and Tariq, a rustic villager who donated parts of his own, assumably tillable land, to set up a co-educational school that delivers modern education. Rampant comparisons are made with cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi’s Islamabad-based madrasa, students of which eventually pledged allegiance to the ISIS after ‘terrorizing pakistani commoners’ as a part of their drive to establish sharia.

Tariq, the benevolent school operator-principal and land owner, describes how ‘jihad’ isn’t only about killing kaffirs (non-believers i.e. non-muslims), but also about fighting the demons within. The concept of equal treatment of those who are not muslims, seems alien to him. In an otherwise delightful scene depicting children making colorful models about village life, the acceptance of ‘hijab’ as the uncontested normal will descend heavily upon you (“Don’t forget to wrap the hijab around the doll’s head”, a student can be heard saying), while Tariq explains that the village guard in the model holds a sword to behead the ‘mujahids’ because shooting a gun would only detonate their suicide vests, wreaking mega-havoc.  It would appear that the idea of ‘Beheading’ comes naturally to this community – mujahid or moderate, notwithstanding.

As a truth-seeking Hindu, you will be saddened when a teenage Zarina loses her fight to study further, in the aftermath of Tariq’s school’s closure due to Talibani threats and is married off to a mustachioed and seemingly, much older man. (Take a look at the first picture. The couple is photographed.) The beginning of the documentary details how she had escaped from Abdul Aziz Ghazi’s madrasa to enroll herself in Tariq’s school. You will singe in pain when you see how attending school empowered Zarina and her sister to be aware of the ills of child marriage and raise those issues with their father, and yet agree to it, due to the lack of any light at the end of their tunnels.

Talha is a Kashmiri boy who charms you in the beginning with his impish smile and desire to watch cricket. Once the pakistani army attacks the Red Mosque, with which Abdul Aziz’s madrasa – Talha’s parent ‘school’ – is associated, his ‘moderate muslim, occasional namazi’ father comes to fetch his son. He disobeys his father, expresses complete agreement with the cause of killing kaffirs and stays back in the madrasa, continuing to abide by the rules that keep him away from a possible favorite sport, and unknown to him, from his childhood. In an earlier scene, Talha is shown failing his verse recitation exam as the students were only being made to memorize verses without their meanings being explained to them. This small subsection of the documentary effectively traces the evolution of a terrorist within the madrasa walls, but the focus shifts almost immediately to ‘moderate muslims’ efforts’ to counter ‘religious terrorism’. At no point, do the makers deeply explore the hatred of the non-muslims that is sanctioned by Islam.

If a viewer is unaware of the bogey of ‘moderate muslims’ , that is those who provide a cover of Al-Taqqiya while ‘Islamic extremists’ annihilate every ‘kaffir’ they come across, the documentary will make him root for a ‘reformist pakistan’, convincing him that poverty and lack of access to modern education, and not Islamist ideology itself, are at the core of the problem. The latter is a fragile theory, refuted multiple times by evidence. (Osama bin Laden was a civil engineer by education. David Headley, Lashkar-i-Taiba’s co-conspirator in 2008 Mumbai attacks, was not poor by any inch of imagination.) Do watch the documentary if you can and let your heart shatter at the realization that co-producer and co-director, Hemal Trivedi, let the sheer brilliance of her film-making acumen fall prey to that very theory. The following snapshots will reveal how Trivedi came to making movies about pakistan after losing a friend in the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai. It is tragic that she did nothing to showcase Hindu victims of Islamist ideology, and instead tread the leftist-hence- socially-acceptable path that paints muslims only as victims of terrorism, not its perpetrators.

She is a Hindu Brahmin by her own admission here :

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2012/11/%202012112612156945376.html 

AmongtheBelievers_2AmongBelievers_3AmongBelievers_4

AmongBelievers_5

Watch the documentary and let yourself grieve at the irony of an inspiring, Hindu woman director of immense calibre putting herself through grave physical and financial risk for the cause of pakistani muslims, none of whom identify with Hindu issues or their own Hindu past, which has now been eradicated with brutality. To rub salt further into your widely gaping wounds, let me inform you that the documentary was funded partly by the Ford Foundation, whose name does not appear till the very end of the rolling casting credits.

AmongBelievers_6

[This article is the first in a series on ‘The Stealthy Capture of Indian subcontinent’s Popular Culture by Islam, aided by those with Hindu names’]

A Tale of Two Custodial Deaths – Minhaj Ansari and Ravi Sisodia

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper names.” – Confucius

Recently, two young men of nearly the same age died while in police detention, barely five days apart. Yet, only one had the good fortune for his death to be called with its proper name – a custodial death. The difference lies in their names, and by extension, the religions they practiced in India, a state which is secular only in the Preamble of its Constitution but anti-Hindu in practice and spirit.

Minhaj Ansari, a Muslim, was arrested in Jharkhand for circulating communal messages with the potential to inflame tensions between Hindus and Muslims further. Though an investigation in the case is yet to be completed, the Station House Officer (SHO) of Naryanpura police station, Sub-Inspector Harish Pathak has already been punished, with a suspension from active service and widespread notoriety courtesy the mainstream media. Ansari’s custodial death was also acknowledged on twitter with a trend #JusticeforMinhajAnsari. The police claims of Ansari suffering from Encephalitis were given no credence at all, in a DailyO.in article for instance, which has blamed all Hindus for their ‘silent complicity’, wondered how Ansari developed encephalitis all of a sudden and insisted that physical torture resulted in his death. [1]

(May I add, that encephalitis in some cases can indeed develop with a dramatic suddenness, and could have coincided with Ansari’s arrest. Nevertheless, the section of this piece that focuses on the questionable state of healthcare in prisons, applies to Ansari’s case too.)

Contrast this with the case of the other dead youth, so insignificant on account of being a practicing Hindu, that even his name hasn’t been reported correctly across platforms. He was Ravi / Ravin / Robin Sisodia. Despite having been incarcerated in Kasna Jail in Uttar Pradesh for over a year, his end didn’t qualify as a ‘custodial death’ in the eyes of the narrative-controlling media. Only a month before Sisodia’s death, India Today had reported on the routine that custodial violence and third-degree torture had become in Kasna Jail, whose deputy jailer is one Akram Khan, on tape subjecting inmates to brutal custodial violence. [2]

Per press releases of the New Delhi based Asian Center for Human Rights, Uttar Pradesh has consistently held the second spot after Maharashtra, for the highest numbers of custodial deaths. [3,4]

A correspondent with The Washington Post who is very active on twitter, Rama Lakshmi, had also reported on the brutal torture methods of the UP police in 2004, in an article that is now available on the website of GenocideWatch.  She had described the use of a two-feet-long rubber belt tied to a wooden handle and quoted an officer,”When we hit with this, there are no fractures, no blood, no major peeling of the skin. It is safe for us, as nothing shows up in the postmortem report. But the pain is such that the person can only appeal to God. He will confess to anything.” [5]

Yet, the angle of physical torture was completely ignored in Sisodia’s case. Interestingly, this time, everybody from war journalists to Supreme Court lawyers, believed in the authenticity of police claims that reasons for Sisodia’s death were purely medical in nature. It has been proposed alternately that the 21 year old Ravi Sisodia DIED in police custody, either due to Dengue or Chikungunya. Louder voices have declared his death to have been caused by renal failure or respiratory failure.

Feigned grief over Ravi Sisodia’s custodial death was overshadowed by declarations of him having been a murderer, with the adjective ‘alleged’ perfunctorily prefixed only after reminders of the trial that never took place were delivered. After hitherto unidentified individuals had taped the Tricolor on to the glass encasing that overlay his corpse, the scene was described as a“body draped/ wrapped in Tricolor” with undertones of local Hindu collusion in the act, unsubstantiated by any evidence.

ravi-sisodia_2ravi-sisodia_3ravi-sisodia_4ravi-sisodia_1

Take a moment to pause here. Then, go over the basics as detailed in the following lines.

An infectious disease process goes through a few stages in the human body, before an individual experiences symptoms because of it. 1st stage of “incubation” means the infectious agent simmers within the body, gathering enough potency. 2nd and 3rd stages of “prodrome” and “clinical symptoms” are when the infection begins to show its deleterious effect on the body. It is at this stage that a person would “feel sick” and likely, seek medical guidance. 4th stage would be of “complications”, that would normally occur if timely and appropriate medical intervention does not take place. The 5th stage, the final sequela of any sufficiently virulent disease process in the absence of corrective measures, is death.

For the sake of simplicity, I will assume that Sisodia did indeed contract chikungunya in the last few days preceding his untimely death, and eventually succumbed to renal failure.

The causal virus of Chikungunya is spread by the bite of the female Aedes mosquito. There’s currently a raging epidemic of the disease in the National Capital Region. Kasna is around 50 kilometers away from New Delhi. Yet, Kasna jail (where Sisodia was incarcerated) seemed to have taken no extra measures to keep the jail clean and prevent it from becoming a fertile ground for the vector-borne illness. This casts a shadow over basic health precautions taken by prisons in India. Prison authorities are certainly responsible for failure to prevent ‘stage 1’ of illness in Ravi Sisodia. 

Refer back to the stages of disease process enlisted above. Prison authorities seemed to have lapsed again as Ravi Sisodia progressed from stage 2-3 of clinical sickness to stage 4 of complications, which may well be either renal or respiratory failure.

ravi-sisodia_5
A topic-related snapshot of internationally vetted medical resource ‘UpToDate’

This should clarify to all and sundry that 21 year old Sisodia didn’t develop a shutdown of vital organs out of thin air.

I will now walk you through the possible failures on the part of Kasna prison authorities, scenario-by-scenario.

Scenario 1: Prison authorities didn’t pay heed to his complaints of ill-health and didn’t bring in a physician to attend to him in time. Why did such an error occur? Have non-medical personnel in Indian prisons been taught scientifically-rooted ‘triage’ of some kind, whereby they decide which prisoner’s complaints of sickness have to be taken seriously enough to warrant medical attention? If so, it is imperative that the authorities reveal their methods, as a serious lapse in the same has resulted in an avoidable death. Or, were other religiously or politically influenced motives at work in not allowing Sisodia to seek timely care? Either way, this would amount to Ravi Sisodia’s worrisome custodial killing by ‘omission’.

Scenario 2 : Medical attention provided was not up to the mark. Indian medical education has been in the doldrums for a long time. Were the prison doctors adequately trained to recognize symptoms correctly and diagnose on time? Or, was a faulty initial, working diagnosis established instead? Or, was Sisodia’s clinical presentation so atypical that it took a long time to establish the correct diagnosis? Regardless, were supportive measures of oral rehydration salts and Paracetamol not instituted? Why?  Was the optimum amount of rest and fluid intake a person needs to recover from Chikungunya not allowed to Sisodia? Again, why?

ravi-sisodia_6ravi-sisodia_7

Worse, were Paracetamol and Oral Rehydration Salts not available in the jail hospital? See the picture above, taken from a WHO South East Asia Regional Office manual, laying out the clinical management principles of Chikungunya fever. Not only are those drugs the mainstay of chikungunya treatment, they are also one of the ‘essential medicines’ . The World Health Organization (WHO) defines ‘essential medicines’ as “those medicines which satisfy the priority healthcare needs of the population …and are intended to be available within the context of functioning health care systems at all times, in adequate amounts and appropriate dosage forms.” [6]  It’s not unusual for government-run hospitals to be out of stock of essential medicines. It’d be a stretch to think a similar problem of shortage does not occur in prison hospitals.

A copy of a letter seeking permission to transfer Sisodia’s care to a district hospital has been circulated, courtesy journalist Mohammad Ali who reports for The Hindu. [7] Consider for a moment that the notice is authentic. It throws light on the multiple steps of bureaucracy that a prisoner must go through to seek health care – which the National Human Rights Commission has correctly linked to right to life, in the notice it sent out seeking further investigation into Sisodia’s death. Certain doubts do arise regarding the authenticity of the letter seeking transfer of care to district hospital, which The Hindu claimed had been submitted on the 30th of September, 2016. No government seal is clearly visible on the picture circulated. The only date that can legibly be made out is one on the left side, “Fix 8-10-16”. For a notice circulated on social media on the 5th of October 2016 regarding events that happened in the preceding week, the only visible date to be “8th October 2016” is a little odd. ravi-sisodia_10

Scenario 3 : Ravi Sisodia was beaten black and blue in Kasna jail by the deputy jailer reported to be one Akram Khan. India Today had recently carried a disturbingly descriptive account of the brutalities that had become a norm inside Kasna jail, as has been mentioned before in this blog piece as well. Excessive beating causes massive muscle damage, like being in a bad road traffic accident would. The medical term for this is rhabdomyolysis – muscle breakdown. The building block of the muscle, myoglobin protein, chokes the kidneys. This can also cause acute renal failure, as a part of the Crush Syndrome. Is this type of acute renal failure curable? Usually yes. With aggressive pushing of IV fluids into the patient, which would have the effect of flushing choked kidneys and getting them to work again. Those who are hurrying to attribute Sisodia’s purported renal failure only to chikungunya, shouldn’t ignore the aspect of police torture, especially since they speak a lot about the same when speaking of the “ Kashmir problem”. This plausible scenario also points to shortfalls in Sisodia’s medical treatment inside the jail hospital, AGAIN. Here’s the link and snapshot of an article indexed in PUBMed – a directory of medical journals worldwide, that documents a case of young, otherwise healthy men driven to acute renal failure from excessive physical beating, called “trauma” in purely clinical terms (The word ‘trauma’ has no emotional connotations here). This article was authored by doctors working in the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, India. [8]

renal-failure_police-torturerenal-failure_post-police-torture

 

Scenario 4: Sisodia consumed large quantities of adulterated alcohol (for example, with methanol), and ended up causing severe damage to his kidneys. This could have been accidental or intentional suicide. If this indeed was the case, it’s another pointer to major carelessness on the part of prison authorities, who are expected to keep a vigilant eye on the inmates.

Please note that I have only discussed medically backed theories that I can understand and explain. Hence, I haven’t dealt in the blog with Sunanda Pushkar-esque theories of a ‘mystery poison’ that could have been fed to Sisodia, in this case hurling him towards acute renal failure and death. Incidentally, most of the hypothetical scenarios around Ravi Sisodia’s death that I have postulated in this piece, have had real precedents in other cases of custodial deaths in India, as per a 2010 article that appeared in the Journal of Indian Academy of Forensic Medicine. [9]

To sum it up, I’d again refer to the quote by Confucius with which this piece began : “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper names.” For starters, accept that Ravi Sisodia died in custody. Next, understand that his death certificate would read :

Immediate cause of death : Septicemia
Antecedent cause of death : Dehydration causing acute renal failure
Underlying cause of death : Chikungunya fever

[10]

death-certificate_india_sisodia

So it’s silly to say he died of ‘chikungunya’  or ‘renal failure’ in isolation, when the reality is more like he died of unattended Chikungunya that worsened into renal failure and septicemia, where the causes of the lack of timely medical attention could well have been the results of political collusion or the prison authorities’ personal religious biases. Given how rampant rioting in Kaligram, West Bengal continued unabated for quite a while during Muharram 2016, owing to a heavily Islamized administration apathetic to suffering Hindus, it’d amount to a botched investigation if those angles are not probed in Sisodia’s case as well.

ravi-sisodia_-22_police-islamizedravi-sisodia_21_police-islamized

 

 

Medical professionals, both inside and outside of the prison systems, need to understand what went wrong, so that such tragedies are averted in the future. Every such avoidable death is a blot on the entire Indian medical fraternity. As doctors, we must demand a thorough investigation, to fix systemic lacunae and uphold the honor of our profession. 

It does India’s judicial system and public morale no good , when a convicted criminal dies a much quicker death because of medical neglect. The fact of a convict serving his sentence for an extended period of time sets an example in the favor of rule of law. Law wins only when a convict serves legal punishment, and is not rescued beforehand by the vagaries of an illness. It is much worse when illness inside the prison, cuts short the life of an undertrial, who may well be proven innocent eventually. Mr Sisodia was one such undertrial, wronged, ignored and tainted without evidence. Be it Ravi Sisodia or Minhaj Ansari, custodial deaths need to be probed and stopped. Illegalities of cow slaughter and smuggling of ‘gau-dhan’ deserve our attention and airtime, not rumors around What’s App messages.

REFERENCES :

[1]http://www.dailyo.in/politics/whatsapp-beef-joke-jharkhand-muslim-youth-death-dadri-lynching-akhlaq-raghubar-das-hindutva/story/1/13368.html

[2]http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/exposed-ups-hell-prison-where-inmates-suffer-vicious-torture-and-corruption/1/759110.html

[3] http://www.achrweb.org/reports/india/torture2011.pdf

[4]http://www.achrweb.org/reports/india/torture2009.pdf

[5]http://www.genocidewatch.org/images/India-5-Aug-04-In_India,_Torture_by_Police_Is_Frequent_and.pdf

[6] http://www.who.int/topics/essential_medicines/en/

[7] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dadri-lynching-accused-ravi-sisodia-was-suffering-from-chikungunya-his-plea-to-court-says/article9189020.ece

[8] Malik GH, Sirwal lA, Reshi AR, Najar MS, Tanvir M, Altaf M.Acute renal failure following physical torture. Nephron 1993; 63: 434-7.
[9] Custodial Deaths – An Overview of the Prevailing Healthcare Scenario / YS Bansal, Murali G, Dalbir Singh / J Indian Acad Forensic Med, 32(4) : 315-317

[10] Medical Certification of Cause of Death/ Lt Col RB Kotabagi, Col RK Chaturvedi, Lt Col A Banerjee / MJAFI 2004, (60) : 261-272

 

National Handloom Day 2016 – Between Hashtags

In 2015, on a day off from work, I decided to take a nostalgia trip of the old Doordarshan show – Byomkesh Bakshi, on YouTube. The web-search led me to a Bangla movie of the same name, among other videos. On a whim, I watched the movie instead. The actress was impressive. I looked her up on the internet. She was Swastika Mukherjee and that day, on her twitter handle @swastika24 she had posted a picture of herself wearing a lovely saree, with the hashtag #100sareepact.

This was my thoroughly serendipitous discovery of the #100sareepact. Clicking on that hashtag revealed pictures of regular women and actresses and TV journalists alike, flaunting sarees of different kinds and shades. Intrigued, I searched more about it and found out about Ahalya Matthan and Maudgal Kadam’s first-of-its-kind-in-recent-memory social media campaign to bring the sari back into daily wear of urban Indian women. It was a call to women to wear sarees 100 times a year, and upload their pictures wearing the same, on their social media accounts, with the hashtag #100sareepact.
http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2015/03/26/how-2-indian-women-made-a-100sareepact-to-revive-six-yards-of-m/

The uniqueness of their idea was striking. Ahalya, Maudgal and #100sareepact deserved all the praise for combining the love of taking selfies and uploading them on social media with the noble cause of reviving a fast-dying garment, symbolic of India’s cultural pride.

Fast-forward to 2016.Imagine my indignation when I discovered that the nation’s new Union Textile Minister, Smriti Irani, had rehashed #100sareepact as #IWearHandloom without any credit to the original creators, and nobody had called her out. Not even the journalists who had been part of #100sareepact.


Worse, she received credit, incorrectly, for having come up with an “innovative idea”. Ahalya and Maudgal were completely ignored, with no credit extended to the original innovators, even as a courtesy.
TextileMap_Kalpana plagiarism

The rest of the social media and electronic news portals played along. There were some who referred to previous attempts of handloom revival, going as far back to Kamladevi Chattopadhyay and Indira Gandhi. NOBODY in the media talked about Ms Irani’s predecessor, Mr Santosh Gangwar’s well-directed efforts at handloom revival. Or the fact that Smriti Irani – the twitter-friendly Union minister – had brazenly committed an intellectual property theft. It takes only a glance at the pictures tweeted with both hashtags #IWearHandloom and #100sareepact to see how they are essentially the same.

These antics have unveiled the mutually symbiotic nexus between certain sections of the media and Ms Irani. They have put on display the utter disregard for the concept of intellectual property in the online sphere, by the minister and her sycophants, some of whom are prominent members of the media.

The unprecedented manner in which social media has permeated all walks of life has outpaced both the lawmakers and law enforcers. Hence, there are neither laws in India nor general guidelines about the ownership of content generated on social media. The Devil’s advocate would retort,” When users upload content on social media for free sharing, they forfeit rights of ownership and hence, a case of plagiarism or theft of intellectual property doesn’t stand any ground.” I disagree.

There’s a reason why the cartoonist Manjul signs his name on all the cartoons he uploads on his twitter handle @MANJULtoons. Or why conscientious users of social media don’t pass off someone else’s work as their own. (If you like a tweet, for instance, you don’t steal it – you retweet it). That reason is moral ownership. With the content one creates before sharing it online or the idea you helped spread online, the sense of moral ownership is very appropriately applicable. That sense, in addition to the financial disadvantages of having one’s intellectual property stolen, is the core reason which drives authors and publishers to sue plagiarists and inventors to file patents.

This episode has also showcased the fact that the BJP doesn’t function on meritocracy. Clear biases are at play. They could be biases of any kind – lookism and a bias for sophisticated oratory are two things that come to mind. Ministers like Piyush Goyal and Sushma Swaraj who have been able to garner a huge following on social media are able to showcase their work to a receptive audience.

Mr Santosh Gangwar had not only ensured loans to handloom weavers and had begun work towards reopening of abandoned mills, but had also pioneered the concept of “Handloom Day”, the first of which was celebrated on 7th August 2015. He spearheaded the launching of “India Handloom” brand, took it online with twitter @indhandloom for promoting sales and took the very praiseworthy step of ensuring citizen-government collaboration by launching India Handloom Garment Design contest in 2015. Mr Gangwar had done everything new-age ministers are expected to do. He had called a press conference. He had tweeted pictures of the awards ceremony. Yet, Mr Gangwar wasn’t fortunate enough to be blessed with widespread tweets of support from his colleagues in BJP, or even a widely followed twitter trend like #NationalHandloomDay , when the same was first celebrated in 2015.

PM Modi clearly assesses ministers’ performance by the praise they receive online. Mr Gangwar, devoid of enough retweets, was booted out by PM Modi, despite his good performance in the ministry of textiles. This seems to have been done only to accommodate Ms Irani, as her utter failures in HRD ministry were beginning to get indefensible.

Smriti Irani has a pending court case against her for lying on sworn affidavits. She has a pending privilege motion against her for lying on the floor of the Parliament. She is covering those crimes up with a stolen hashtag. The fact that she lacks the conscience to recognize the concept of moral ownership is therefore, nothing shocking. It further cements the notion that she is unsuitable for heading ANY ministry.

This episode also draws attention to another fact – that we as a nation, don’t follow activities of all ministries closely, unless a popular face is at the helm. It speaks very poorly of our collective intellect. Ponder upon it. Fix it.

Stands that bhakts will take to defend PM’s decision of giving Irani a chance as HRD Minister

Rumor has it that Smriti Irani (referred to as SI hereforth) will soon be ousted from HRD ministry. The PM though is unlikely to relent, as Madhu Kishwar tweeted on 16th April 2015. After all, Irani’s ouster (after audibly sustained protests by voices of reason) will give the increasingly unified opposition, a general reference on which to base all future criticism of the current Government of India.

In the hypothetical case that she’s removed, the blind NaMo devotees and the ‘Irani-is-Steve-Jobs-and-Bill-Gates-as-all-didn’t-graduate-from-college’ brigade will need reasons to defend the one outlandish and atrocious decision of the otherwise sagacious PM Modi. They’ll need to defend why he did so in the first place.Like everything else, it ‘ll be put down to ‘Chanakya Neeti’.  (Remember the ridiculous article circulated after BJP’s loss in Delhi Assembly elections,which claimed Amit Shah-Narendra Modi duo lost those elections on purpose to prep the ground for Bihar victory?)

I ‘ll help members of the aforementioned group bolster their ammo, should they need it.

Stand 1 :  This stand rides on the premise that a female face is essential in all government cabinets for the sake of populist feminism and its nebulous idea of women empowerment.  “NaMo knew SI’s Tulsi-avatar and forceful oratory had won her a huge fan following among viewers of TV debates. Therefore, he shot two birds with one stone. He candy-charmed all those who were SI fans and also won SI as a loyalist. Despite the loss of the cabinet berth, the lady will forever be indebted to NaMo for the ‘opportunity’. She’s smart enough to build from past ‘achievements’. The HRD ministership (its failure notwithstanding) will pitch her as a possible ministerial candidate in all future BJP-led governments. Age, gender and now experience,for what it’s worth, will be on her side. NaMo has thus ‘cultivated’ those votes and a popular female face for the future.”

Stand 2: This stand is founded on the belief that NaMo,the Messiah, works in mysterious ways to save our nation.“NaMo had sensed that her popularity at the time could have catapulted her ambition higher. The ‘good bahu’ was already thought to be a future PM candidate by certain sections, and another Sushma Swaraj by others. The experienced gentleman had already gauged that SI, voraciously ambitious,had zilch ministerial ability. He wanted everybody else to realize the same. So he provided SI with a platform where she’d be under constant scrutiny – the HRD ministry,absolutely mismatched with her credentials. He knew that her predictable failure to perform on a berth so important will bring her enough public criticism and derision. NaMo knew that it will likely end her political career. She,apparently poised to reach the upper echelons of public office owing to the blessings of her astrological chart, would have been a political nuisance (like the reformed-after-being-repeatedly-deformed Janata Parivar) and at best a challenger to the PM’s post. As NaMo knows he needs to be around for two more decades to drive the nation completely out of despair, he hatched this ploy to successfully weed out a future political crippler. Plato had said,”The heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself.” In keeping with Plato’s teachings, NaMo has done us all a great service by lifting off the curtain of illusion that Smriti-Tulsi-Virani-Irani had drawn across our eyes.”

Stand 3 : This stand is that NaMo was simply trying to build his political legacy.SI had publicly demanded NaMo’s resignation as Gujarat CM in 2004 over his alleged sanction of Godhra riots.(He has been proven innocent now.) Still, he chose her as HRD minister (and another dissenter Sushma Swaraj as External Affairs Minister). This allowed him to showcase his magnanimity,one of the qualities of a statesman. He would have been credited as her mentor had she,by the stroke of a heavenly wand, performed as HRD minister. It would have been his legacy that he nurtured raw talent,unbacked by privileged lineage; that a childless PM picked his successor solely on ‘merit’; that he delivered the final blows to the tyranny of political dynasties in India. The contender may be gone, but the contest is still open. NaMo has shown that he rewards genuine effort generously. The Irani fiasco will serve as an impetus for others,ministers and non-ministers alike,to prove their merit and win the golden chance to be a preferred successor.

In the end, like always, Narendra Damodardas Modi emerged the winner. Om NaMo Namah.

When a Stellar Doctor = Rapist, Time to Re-think MedEd.

The case of a doctor, pursuing clinical Post-Graduate studies in a premier Indian institute, being arrested on charges of rape is more disturbing than the other recent reports of the same crime. It is not too far-fetched to say that the case has the potential to discredit the entire medical fraternity.

The doctor has admitted that he had contacted pimps and paid them to procure a girl. In his PoV, this was implied consent for sex on the girl’s behalf. He seems unaware that girls are often trafficked and forced into prostitution, and that organized prostitution itself is illegal in India. Or, more dangerously (and quite likely, may I add), he does not care.

At this point, I will apply what I have decided to call the ‘Polio Logic’. Public health officials agree that ‘1 confirmed case of polio means 1000 undetected cases of the same’.  Given the rampant sexual perversion and preoccupation present in medical college campuses, the same ‘Polio Logic’ can be applied to this context. It yields the following conclusions: (1) this man – a doctor- had possibly paid pimps a ‘1000’ times before as well, given the smooth-handedness with which he went about the whole business (2) ‘1000s’ others – his friends, fellow doctors,others in his social circle- have probably done / habitually do the same.

Doctors are expected to be intelligent, based on the assumption of their mastery of a vast volume of knowledge. The fact that these bundles of intelligence have devoted themselves to the profession traditionally considered the noblest of all, lends itself conveniently to the expectation that all doctors will be morally upright. At least,everybody else thinks, “they won’t rape.” At least, their touch won’t be evil. All those notions are being increasingly disproved.

In the doctor’s defense, paying pimps for arranging a supposed sex-worker is so common that it could never have occurred to him as illegal. He wasn’t ‘consciously’ breaking a law, let alone realize that he was being a party to the crime of trafficking, by being a consumer of this supply chain. The nature of our society is such that a wrong repeated routinely, becomes an accepted commonstance. Doctors imbibe values from the social microcosm they were brought up in. Medical education needs to weed this filthy thinking out.

The selection criteria for admission into specialty post-graduate courses are one-dimensional. They are focused only on rote medical knowledge. It is barely a surprise that somebody with criminal tendencies emerged a winner in the entrance exams. Ruthless efforts and brutal determination are keys to academic achievement in medicine ; Ruthlessness and brutality aid in committing a crime. Doctors who behave unethically outside of medicine will naturally be more susceptible to behaving unethically in their medical practice too.

It is imperative that the system now develops the ability to choose only those clinically competent individuals who have a solid moral spine and are more inclined to be naturally law-abiding. Psychiatric analyses of candidates and tests of all-round awareness should be made mandatory parts of admission procedures into both PG and UG (MBBS) courses of medicine. The selection procedure can be multi-stage, much like the UPSC examinations. If due effort is not put into choosing future graduate doctors and specialists, they can’t be expected to evolve into thorough providers of healthcare. During the course of medical education as well, they need to be monitored for any signs of anti-social behavior, to facilitate prompt remediation. Graduate medical education in India accepts students as young as 16 (the average age range,by anecdotal evidence is 17-19 years). They need to be counselled all along to develop social maturity and legal awareness ; it clearly does not come on its own with age. This dire need is reflected by the fact that the 27 year old rapist did not stop his act despite the victim’s resistance (proven by the injuries she sustained,helping the medical examination to conclude it as a case of rape), because he believed implied consent had been provided. It indicates his gross ignorance and insensitivity.Institutional penalty also has a role to play in disciplining miscreants in the bud. This is the international standard too, as exemplified by this warning posted on the website of Baylor College of Medicine:

“Any student who exhibits personal characteristics which seem inappropriate to one seeking to become a physician is considered for dismissal regardless of academic performance.”

https://www.bcm.edu/education/schools/medical-school/student-affairs/student-handbook/policies/non-academic-performance

Consider the opposite scenario: What if the alleged criminal DID NOT ‘rape’and did not pay the intermediaries ? What if this entire case is fabricated? The doctor’s name, the video of him speaking during the felicitation ceremony of the coaching institute he attended, the name of the institute where he is currently studying, along with the name of his hometown are all on the internet. This allegation has become a permanent part of his identity. He may hire a professional to help clean up his online identity, but the damage is done. He has little choice but to return to his parent college to finish his course. He will struggle to find sympathy and support at work and competitors will find the taunt of this allegation, an easy weapon to trip him over with. In the paragraph above, I have stated that there’s a strong chance his fellow doctors indulge in the same crime. Why would they target another of their own flock (irrespective of the falsehood of the allegation)? Many pay for sex; few suffer the dishonor of being discovered at work. Everyone likes to keep the garb of absolute morality on.

Importantly, patients will distrust him. Physical examination obviously demands that doctors touch their patients. Medical training centers around making this ‘touch’ as professional and as culturally sensitive as possible. His clinical astuteness will no longer matter ; his character is already questionable.  The damage to doctor-patient relationships caused thus will be insurmountable.

The general disregard for law, however pervasive in the society, does not befit a physician. Medical education needs to reinforce that more firmly to young students.