Questions of identity…

The elections have just concluded. Much discussion has transpired on the various things politicians said to get votes and seats, from free laptops, to Activas at half price. But, for some reason, one election promise hasn’t been discussed in the mainstream as much as I would like: that of giving primacy to Tamilians in Tamil Nadu. This election slogan of “Tamil Nadu is for Tamilians”  is neither new, nor entirely unexpected. What is, however, disheartening is the number of educated and seemingly sensible people who seem to think this attitude is acceptable.

I do not quite understand how someone can be so determinedly nationalist in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. I do not understand how nationalism and exclusionism is not a negative quantity in a world where most products we routinely consume are produced outside of the geography that we occupy. How can someone who boasts an Apple iPhone, a Fossil watch and a Ford car think that only people who “originally” belong to a state/region have the right to live there? How can anyone, in the same breath speak with great pride of Satya Nadella and Indra Nooyi, while simultaneously wishing to deport all non-Tamils from Tamil Nadu? What does nationalism or regional pride even mean in today’s world?

Questions of identity are extremely complex and difficult to resolve. This questions is one of special personal importance to me, as I have spent the better part of my life trying to give myself a single identity. And failed. Am I Kannadiga, when my knowledge of the language is limited to the dialect I speak at home, and that of the state limited to my few visits to Bangalore? Or am I a Tamilian, when my mother tongue is a language other than Tamil? Who exactly am I and what is my relationship with this place I call home?

When someone asks me where I am from, the first answer I give is, “Chennai”. Because, it is true. I am from Chennai and this is home. I certainly do not speak Tamil as a first language or mother tongue. I belong to a tiny community of Kannada-speaking people who migrated into this state several centuries ago. I am married to a member of an even tinier community of Marathi-speaking people who also migrated several centuries ago. If someone asked us to go back where we belong, where do we go? To Karnataka, whose language and people are so alien to me that I return from each short trip to Bangalore with the joy of pup returning home? Or to Maharashtra, which I have barely visited except for a few times for official reasons? For me, home is Chennai. Even if I were to go a few generations back to trace my origins, they would go no further than Coimbatore and Theni. Then, who am I?

If mastery of a language is the criteria for qualifying as a “Tamilian”, then would millions of my co-inhabitants of Tamil Nadu qualify? How many native speakers of Tamil actually know the language they call their mother tongue? How about this generation of urban youth, which is more comfortable in English than in their mother tongue?

These are questions that are extremely hard to resolve, or even attempt a resolution at. Yet, we do not hesitate to call someone an “outsider” just because we feel entitled. Can we try, at least, to build a more equitable world? A world that, in Tagore’s immortal words, has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls? Try?

Being a woman…

…is not easy at times. This is not the first time I’ve spoken up against online abuse and it will not be the last. Yet, it never seems to end. As a woman, the minute you say something the majority doesn’t agree with, you’re targeted. Sometimes it’s people making you see sense, sometimes it is those who malign you and question your integrity and at other times it is those who threaten you into silence. But, almost always, the fact that you’re a woman is held against you.
If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know that I have refrained from commenting on politics and especially on the political right wing in India. This is mainly because I find objectivity sorely lacking in Indian political discourse. The attitude usually is, “if you’re not with me, you’re against me”. To elaborate, you either believe that the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate is the best thing to have happened to India or you’re a dynasty apologist. People like me who harbour a certain ambivalence to both mainstream parties and almost every other party in-between are considered outcasts. Indeed, there can be no middle path in Indian politics today. This basically forced me, and I believe many others like me, into preferring to watch from the sidelines.
In this situation, the news that Muthalik had joined the BJP shocked me into speaking out. So outraged was I with the idea that a hooligan could actually be admitted into a mainstream political party that could well be tomorrow’s ruling elite that I finally sent one one tweet on rethinking my ambivalence to the party.
Less than three hours after that tweet went out, I found myself inundated by @ mentions and retweets suggesting that I should go lick the feet of the Congress. The reactions did not stop there. As is usually the case, they extended to my character and my beliefs, even my family and my person. One well-meaning critic asked me what I know of Muthalik apart from what’s published by the mainstream “paid” media. Some critics helpfully pointed out that being a woman, I should watch out.
To all these people I have just question. Can’t you think of any better way to disagree with a person other than to malign her character and threaten her into silence? I find misogyny so rampant in the online world that nobody even stops to think about it any more. The last time I spoke out against the hooliganism of the Ram Sene in Mangalore, I was threatened and intimidated. There is no guarantee that this won’t happen again. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if I we’re to speak out against any political party at all, I’d be targeted in much the same way.
I find that otherwise rational and normal human beings become strangely intolerant when they start supporting one or the other political party. This is true about people across the political spectrum. What explains this? The need to belong? The need to identify with a group, however big or small? Or is it simply that ambiguity and ambivalence are too difficult for them to take? I don’t have answers. And perhaps never will.

Perpetuating myths…

There has been considerable outrage on the expose by NDTV and Tehelka on the attitude of policemen in and around the National Capital Region towards rape victims. While it is shocking that such comments come from those who are supposed to be protectors of the innocent, none of this is really surprising. The attitude is simply representative of the attitude of a large majority of Indian men who seem to think that a woman who is in a relationship with one person automatically grants privileges to 10 others because she is of “loose” character.

Nor is it surprising that the very act of forcing a woman is considered “normal” because she was drinking, or exchanged phone numbers, or dressed in “skimpy and provocative” clothing. I do not remember how many times women’s rights activists, women in general and several others have reiterated that provocation or “losing control” does not exonerate the rapist. Along with rapists, the police and other law-enforcement authorities, sometimes including our law courts are just perpetuating several myths regarding rape:

Myth: If a woman dresses provocatively, drinks or is in a relationship with someone, she “tempts” a man into raping her.

Fact: Rape is NOT a sex crime. Rapists rarely do so because they are unable to “resist temptation” or because they lose control. They do it because they are trying to establish their power over a woman by doing so. Rape is about power, not attraction. It happens because the perpetrator of the crime does not even consider what he is doing as a crime. It also happens because the rapist believes (and with good reason) that he will get away with it. As with most cases, shoddy investigation, unsympathetic police personnel and lack of DNA evidence results in an acquittal.

Myth: A woman who dresses modestly will not be raped.

Fact: Rape is the result of the twisted logic of a sick mind. What else could explain rape of 2-year old children and 85-year old grandmothers? A woman is at risk of being raped even if she were dressed in a burqa. Asking women to dress modestly and not “provoke” only puts the onus of security on the victim. It practically exonerates the actual criminal and victimizes the victim.

Myth: She is doing it for money. When someone uses force, she cries rape!

Fact: Even if a woman were a prostitute, she does not deserve to be raped. Her character has nothing to do with the whole affair. And in case our cops don’t realize, forcing a woman is indeed called rape.

Apart from all this, it is quite distressing that the Delhi government seems more inclined to impose restrictions on women rather than address the core issue of rape as a law and order problem. To top it all, the Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has expressed concern at the state of women in NCR. We do not want to know if she is “worried”. In fact, she should be angry, not worried. She should be angry enough to do something about the current state of affairs in order to make a difference. She should, as the Chief Minister of a state, take action to ensure that Delhi’s  streets are safe for women, and not pay lip service to the plight of women in the country’s capital!

Indian media and the credibility crisis

For the first time in weeks, I was offline for something like 4 hrs. And, what do I see when I come back? My Twitter timeline explode with comments on the The Hindu and one blogpost repeatedly retweeted on the Indian Express and its pro-establishment leanings. It felt like one fine day, the skies had opened up to rain fire on our mainstream media. Not that our newspapers haven’t already experienced this credibility crisis but these two happenings make us question the whole journalism business. Now…where do I start?

Earlier in the day, I was pointed to a letter by N. Ravi, Editor, The Hindu to all employees of the organization. In this hard-hitting letter, Ravi accuses N.  Ram, Editor-in-chief of not keeping up his word to retire in May 2010, and conspiring with some members of the Governing Board to remove him from his position of Editor. All this office politics notwithstanding, some accusations levelled by Ravi against Ram are distressing! In a damning indictment of something we always suspected, Ravi accuses Ram of forcing him to publish a defensive interview of A. Raja in 2010 against the promise of a full-page colour advertisement by the Telecom Ministry. Even more distressing is the Editor himself accusing the Editor-in-chief of being overtly pro-Chinese Communist Establishment.

In the light of these accusations by Ravi, The Hindu’s publishing of “Living our Values: Code of Editorial Values” doesn’t really make a mark. Indeed, taking a moral high ground and taking of editorial values and journalistic ethics in the backdrop of a general decline of editorial standards seems incongruous. Now, whether the Editor-in-Chief actually published pro-Raja articles and news for a direct  quid pro quo is another matter. Irrespective of whether every word in Ravi’s letter is true or not, and irrespective of whether Ravi himself benefited from an actively pro-establishment stand, these revelations make one doubt the credibility of the Hindu as a newspaper. Personally, I stopped reading The Hindu because of it’s increasingly pro-left leanings and in the light of these allegations, I really wonder how much credibility this newspaper, once the gold standard in Indian journalism, really has left.

On that note, I also came across this brilliant blogpost at Churumuri, on whether “anti-establishment” which was originally IE’s calling card has now changed beyond recognition. The analysis of whether the newspaper that chose to fight the establishment through Emergency and later, has actually changed its stripes to become pro-establishment. Do read it.

The timing is so perfect that it triggers off a range of thought about what credibility is really left for the Indian media. As I tweeted earlier in the day, The Hindu has just outed itself thanks to infighting. The Indian Express seems to be inexorably moving from being an objective and fearless newspaper to being an apologist of the powers that be. The Times of India lost its credibility the day it started degenerating from a mainline newspaper to a tabloid in broadsheet format. Hindustan Times, as I pointed out a few years back, is more interested in telling us that Michael Douglas uses Viagra than to give us any real news. What does that, as readers, leave us with? Small wonder then that we “pseudonymous bloggers” sitting in darkened rooms in our ivory towers actually prefer Twitter to newspapers as our primary source for news.

What now, of the mainstream media? Who is going to step in to fill the void that our mainstream media has created in being the watchdogs of our polity? Can we really expect these newspapers, who seem more interested in currying favour and making money, to perform the duty that is expected of them as Fourth Estate? Or will social media eventually take over that role? I have no answers at the moment. Only questions.

Living our Values: Code of Editorial Values

Of democracy and democratic traditions…

There has been a raging debate on the origins of Indian democracy on Twitter ever since I tweeted about Christophe Jaffrelot’s latest Foreign Policy Review Essay, comparing democracy in India and in Pakistan. I strongly recommend that you read Jaffrelot’s article and Nitin Pai’s superb fisking of the essay at The Acorn, before moving on with this blogpost.

The one problem I see with Jaffrelot’s approach to India and its democracy is that he tends to view everything Indian democracy stands for from a western perspective. I am saying this after studying not just his articles and essays, but after having studied under him during my two-year masters at Sciences Po, of which CERI, his parent organization, is a part. First, he believes that all democratic tradition in India is a legacy of the British Raj, without which India would still have been a nation of barbarians who do not know how to rule themselves. He completely discounts the influence of native cultures and traditions, which may be called democratic in the vaguest possible sense. Second, he attributes the success of democracy in India, during his lectures as well as through his writing, to the en masse politicization of the Indian population by the Indian National Congress and the independence movement. The role of other political movements however marginal, tend to be completely ignored, not just by Jaffrelot himself but by most western indologists, including Philip Oldenburg whose book he reviews in Foreign Policy. To them, democracy in India is a western legacy that its people have unquestioningly accepted to the extent that we are today, the world’s largest democracy.

This standpoint is often accepted by many Indians themselves and this acceptance triggered a raging debate about whether democracy was actually Indian in nature. This is where I feel compelled to clarify certain popular misconceptions, prevalent even among the well-read, intellectual elite. My claim is not that democracy as it is practiced today is entirely Indian in nature and we had it all before the British came along and conquered us. My contention is merely that democracy survived and prospered in post-independence India the way it never could in Pakistan because the Indian traditions of pluralism, tolerance and multi-culturalism are derived mainly from certain traditions that may be considered democratic in nature. At this point, it is impossible to ignore the obvious differences between the Indian and the Pakistani State: pluralism vs. monism, federalist union vs. unitary state, non-interference in religion vs. Islamist governance. Viewing the two countries through the politically-correct prism of secularism is neither sensible, nor desirable.

It becomes important, at this juncture to clearly define those democratic traditions, so as to dispel the perception that I claim democracy to be purely Indian in origin. The example of democracy in India that I am personally most familiar with is the “kuda-olai” system of electing village administrative officers. K.A. Nilakanta Shastri explores this system in detail in his two volumes on the Cholas. The books are now out of print and can only be found in colleges and public libraries. This information, unearthed from stone inscriptions in Uttiramerur near Chennai, date back to the 12th Century A.D, especially during Rajaraja’s reign between 985 and 1014 A.D. To put things in perspective, the Chola administrative system pre-dated the famed Magna Carta signed in 1215 A.D. With the signing of the Magna Carta, the western world finally accepted the limitations on the right of the king, whereas in southern India, the system of electing representatives who were governed by rules already existed two hundred years previously.

If we go further back in history, we have archaeological and documentary evidence of tiny clans and even some bigger ones like the Lichchavis of modern-day Nepal, who practised a primitive form of democracy in choosing the leader of their tribe. They are often called “republics” by scholars like Steve Muhlberger to whose work I have linked earlier.

That said, these primitive systems can, by no means, considered a precursor to modern-day democracy because voting was largely restricted to men aged between 18 and 60 years, who in addition, must be land-owners. This constituted approximately 20 percent of the total population, excluding large groups like artisans, laborers, and most importantly, women. However, by that definition, no system predating the universal suffrage movement of the 20th century can be called democratic. Looking for a replica of democracy as we know it today in the Arthashastra or the Manu-Smriti is an entirely pointless exercise because much of what we hold dear today, including human rights, civil liberties, individual freedom and universal suffrage have evolved over the last two hundred years. Not even the famed democratic nation-state of Athens would qualify for that title. The Magna Carta, often considered the precursor to the British writ of haebeas corpus, and to modern democracy was actually devolution of power from the monarch to the feudal lords and not to the “people” as we qualify them today.

Finally, no country can adapt a completely foreign system if it goes against its political ethos, unless founded on complete destruction of earlier cultures and imposition of a new religious, social and political order as in the case of some South American countries. If democracy has succeeded in India, it is because our basic political ethos is not fundamentally different from the one imposed by western-style democracy. While British rule accelerated India’s acceptance of multi-party democracy as the only possible system of governance, it would not have survived the various threats posed, first by the bloody massacres of partition and subsequently by the state of Emergency imposed by Mrs. Gandhi, had that democratic tradition not existed in the first place. It is only intellectually honest to accept that a native discourse in democracy-studies is not an entirely-flawed approach, unlike indologists like Jaffrelot and Oldenburg who seemed determined to negate that influence.

Of democracy and democratic traditions…

Some totally unconnected thoughts…

I have been meaning to put something down in words for a week now. But, every time I put my fingers to keyboard, I realize I don’t have enough material for a blogpost. You know? It’s one of those times when you have too much to say to fit into a tweet of 140 characters, but not enough to make a blogpost of! So, I decided to put all my random thoughts down into one single blogpost, instead of waiting forever to elaborate on them and basically kill the expression!

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The census guy was at aunt’s place last week. With apparent boredom he quizzes aunt about the names, ages, dates of birth of the members of the family. Getting to language, he asks what the mother-tongue was. My aunt says Kannada. He noted it down and asked, “Vera baashai?” Aunt said, Hindi, English, Tamil, and Sanskrit. The lady accompanying the man tells him, “Just write Tamil and English. Others are irrelevant.” Aunt insists for a moment, then gives up because the milk boiling on the gas is more important and the man taking the information down is refusing to relent. Then comes religion. He asks, “Hindu, Christian or Muslim?” And my aunt says Hindu. And that’s that! After a few more questions, he thanks us and leaves. This incident left a bitter taste in my mouth. First things first, you cannot and must not restrict the number of languages recorded in the census. For me, there would be at least 4 apart from my mother tongue, in which, incidentally, I am not fluent. Secondly, the issue of religion. Religion is a personal affair. People must not be forced to select their religion from a drop-down list, figuratively speaking. As an adult, I must ideally be allowed to declare myself as atheist, agnostic or Bah’ai if I please! Also, the religion of my parents must not automatically become mine! What about inter-faith marriages? The children should be allowed to remain sans religion until they are old enough to decide what they want to be. I don’t know if the census take into account such special cases, but I do know that the officials coming to collect information are very often quite rigid in their approach.

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On a different note, I finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Gut-wrenching, yet hopeful. Some scenes describing the Taliban era are scary, intense and hit you like a ton of bricks. What it must take for a man to write so sensitively about two female characters! For a minute, I was transported into a world where being a woman is the biggest curse of them all. I was so emotionally affected at times that I had to put the book down and do something else. But, the book is so gripping that you can never stay away for too long. I would like to read it again, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to stomach that again.

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Finally, now that the euphoria of President Mobarak’s exit has died down, can we please get a bit more practical? Egypt has a long way to go before it becomes a fully-functional democracy. Gloating over successes even before the success is total is not only premature, but also carries with it the risk of people losing focus on the task at hand. Let’s not forget that it is still the military that is ruling. And a military in power is never a good thing. For now, the only thing we can do is wait and watch. And hope that for their own sake, the Egyptian people manage to set up a functional democracy.

This time last year…

…we had no idea that in 12 hours, our world would be turned upside down. This time last year, terrorists were getting ready to attack the Taj, the Trident and the CST. What seemed to be a two-hour operation for our elite National Security Guards, turned out to be our worst ever encounter with terror. I can’t get the memory of that day out of my mind. I can’t get those television images of Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar out of my mind. Nor can I forget the young and handsome face of Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who along with dozens of others lost his life to those terrorist bastards. Men, no older than 19 and 20, who decided to right all the perceived wrongs by randomly killing off innocent civilians whose only crime was to have been born in a non-Islamic country.

On second thoughts, did Islam, or any other religion for that matter, even figure in their thoughts? Or was it simply the blind faith that by killing a hundred civilians, they would get their 72 virgins in heaven? Did even their own religion matter when these men, who weren’t even old enough to be called men, killed off those people waiting to catch trains and get back home to their loved ones? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. All I know is that but for those men who laid down their lives trying to save others. If Karkare, Kamte, Salaskar and Sandeep were men in uniform who knew their lives could end this way some time, the staff of the Taj and the Trident took the word customer service to new heights that day. They died trying to protect their customers.

I could go on like this for the next 10 pages, but nothing would diminish the pain we felt on that day. I wouldn’t say that my heart bled for my country that day, one year ago. But, sitting in faraway Chennai, I suddenly felt more insecure than I ever had previously. I suddenly felt terrified for the lives of those I loved and cared for the most. What if my parents, my friends, or even the lady next door were at the Taj that day? What if tomorrow, I were to lose one of these people I cherish and adore? What if one day, I had to sacrifice a son, friend, husband or brother like Sandeep? It is too terrifying to contemplate.

Having said all this, we still keep the men who perpetrated this crime alive. I argued passionately for the right of Kasab for a fair trial. But, I also say that justice delayed is justice denied. How much longer are we going to have to wait for the trial to end? How much longer are we going to allow the media free access to him and listen to that man say he regrets what he did, and hear his laments? I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know why or how he became a terrorist. I am, even a year later, in no position to conduct an academic inquiry into the motives behind a man turning into a terrorist. All I want is justice; justice for the wrongs; justice for the killing of the hundreds of civilians who only wanted a good night’s sleep. Unless we, as a nation act firmly and quickly against the perpetrators of terror, we will remain soft targets. First, it was Delhi, then Jaipur, then Mumbai, more than once. Tomorrow it could be Chennai, or Hyderabad, or Bangalore. Are we going to wait until every one of our cities, major and minor, becomes targets of terror attacks? I certainly hope not.

Bring back the Brits?

That’s what one Mr. Aakar Patel wants us to do. Or at least, wishes they hadn’t left India quite so soon. Check out this phenomenally shortsighted article in the Mint. Or must I say, blindingly Anglophile? I really don’t know how to classify this article. It is one thing to point out that there are problems with governance in India. It is quite another to wish an alien government had stayed sixty years longer than it actually did. Before you read on, read this article by the same person in the International News, a Pakistani site. Also, read this rebuttal by Rohit on his NationalInterest blog.

The problem is that Patel really seems to believe what he says: that the British were benevolent rulers, with India’s best interests at heart; that we could have been better off if the British had stayed another sixty years. I do not dispute the fact the British brought a number of good things to India. Think about the railways, the administrative services, the English language, and you will see what I mean. I agree. We owe much of what we see in India today to the fact that we were ruled for over 400 years by a foreign government.

But think about this. The same government threw our people into prison for the crime of questioning their authority over a country and is, arguably, not theirs. The same government skinned our people alive with the imposing burden of taxes, and denied basic human rights to about one-fifth of humanity. Let us not forget that the British government that gave us a decent system of education also founded whites-only clubs and cricket grounds were boards proudly bore the words, “Dogs and Indians not allowed.” Let us also not forget that, by Patel’s own admission millions of people died in several famines across the country during the rule of the British. And, we would also do well to remember that in the last sixty-two years, the country has not faced a single famine.

This is not to eulogise the Indian government and claim it has done its best. No. It simply means that the government listens to the people who brought it to power, not because governments are inherently noble, but because they know they can be thrown out in the next elections by the same people who elected them. It is this kind of control that gives us the right to express ourselves freely. It is precisely this freedom that has today allowed Patel to even publish something as inherently anti-establishment as this article.

The point here is not to rubbish the contribution of the British to infrastructure development or education in India. But, in acknowledging their positive influences, we must not become so blind to their faults that we wish they had stayed longer. That is extremely dangerous. Blind adoration is never good.

Yes, we Indians are corrupt, inefficient and nepotistic. But, however inefficient we may be, we still hold the right to rule ourselves. Don’t judge us because we are imperfect. Let us make our mistakes, pick ourselves up, and continue on our path to discovering the best way to govern ourselves. Don’t assume someone else knows better because they come from the west of the Caucasus. It would do well for us to remember that the British, the French, the Americans and every other developed country has travelled the path we are treading today. They have made their mistakes, learnt from them and are governing themselves reasonably well today. That might take another century in India. But, let us be. We will learn. Sooner or later.

Intimidation by NDTV

The blogosphere practically exploded today with protests against NDTV’s silencing of a blogger’s criticism of Barkha Dutt’s coverage of the Mumbai attacks. Before I link to everybody else who has written on this, I would like to  point you to the Google cache of the original post that was later deleted by Kunte. That’s not enough.

We all need to write about just why NDTV’s actions are reprehensible. They probably threatened to sue the poor blogger for libel. But, for what? For quoting a Wikipedia entry that criticises Barkha Dutt’s handling of the Kargil War? Or for commenting on what all of us saw on television for more than three days? Many other bloggers have made the point much better than I can. Trailblazer, Gaurav Sabnis, Shripriya, Rohit, and Prem Panicker have made the point several times over.

But, I have one question for Barkha Dutt and Co. They were justified in feeling insulted that one blogger, sitting at home and watching television criticised them. They chose to sue. The allegations against them were, in their opinion baseless and libellous. So, they agree that people are free to sue for libel. Right? In that case, would they tender an unconditional apology to the Talwars for slandering them after the murder of their 14-year old daughter? Would they retract all the speculations they made on national television of the sordid details of Dr. Rajesh Talwar’s adulterous relationship with his colleague? Would they offer to bring back the time the family lost in mourning their daughter? Can they do it? Ever?

Would they apologise to the Unnikrishnans for airing the news of their son’s death even before it was communicated officially to the family, thus shocking them into learning of such a tragic news through a flash running at the bottom of their television screens? Would they apologise for shoving mics, rather insensitively, into the face of the worried husband of a trapped guest at the Oberoi, and asking him how he felt? I guess not. Because they call it freedom of speech. So, according to them, freedom of speech is only for multi-million dollar businesses that are nothing better than money-making ventures. It does not apply to individual people like Cheytanya Kunte who was bullied into withdrawing his post and apologising for citing a Wikipedia entry. Right?

Wrong. Because we live in a democracy. Because we are free to express whatever opinion we want. Because NDTV, like all other news channels, is in a business that leaves them vulnerable to criticism. Because Kunte’s post does not, and never did, fall into the category of libel. And because, as a blogger, as a human being, and as a citizen of India, I genuinely believe in the freedom of expression. Also because, the freedom of expression must apply to everyone, irrespective of money, race, sex, caste, creed or identity. Today, NDTV has silenced one blogger. Let’s see how many other bloggers they can silence. Let’s see how successful Ms. Dutt and her friends are at silencing its critics. If we are true to ourselves, our voices will be heard, whether NDTV wants it to be heard or not.

Of secularism and terrorism

I knew editorial standards in journalism were pathetic, but I frankly did not expect a newspaper like The Hindu to publish total bullshit like this. This article is offensive at so many levels that I don’t know where to start.

First, the author seems to confuse secularism with impartiality. Secular means non-religious. Terrorism is never about religion, it is simply about power. Religion is only a means to an end. She becomes incoherent when she cites Mahatma Gandhi and the Kanchi seer in a completely irrelevant situation. She then becomes outright offensive in this sentence.

A few Hindu militants emerged here and there only after the aliens who arrived in India provoked them or forcibly converted them. But their number has been too insignificant as otherwise India won’t be the multi-religious country that it is.

She basically implies that all Hindu fundamentalism is caused by the presence of aliens, supposedly Muslim invaders and European colonisers. Such a wild accusation, especially published in a respected paper like the Hindu is condemnable. That’s not all. As if wanting to prove that she understands zilch about either politics of foreign affairs, she asks why Mr. Vajpayee chose to inform Mr. Bush of the parliament attack. She wants to know who Mr. Bush is to decide the fate of our country. It just makes me wish she would shut up.
Let’s get one thing right. Secularism or religion has nothing to do with terrorism. Terror must be dealt with firmly, irrespective of the religion of the perpetrator. Equating one with the other is criminal. The task at hand is not to shun or criticise one community. It is to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice. Their religion must be of no consequence to us. Nor the religion of the arrested Sadhvi or anyone else who perpetrates terror attacks. When will we understand that talking secularism in such troubled times only makes things worse. The question now is only of whether we can meet the challenge posed by terrorism.