Ostrich Syndrome!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Prof Sabharwal - To Sir with Love

In Mahabharata we had Eklavya, the low caste prince of Nishadha offer his right thumb to Dronacharya, his apocryphal guru. This was in 10th Century BC. On August 26, 2006, a mob of (so called) students lynched Prof. Sabharwal in Madhav College in the holy city of Ujjain. The Indian guru-chela tradition has come a long way indeed. The Brahmanand Purana goes on to say, Guru brahma, guru vishnu, guru devo maheshwara, in essence it means that Guru is an incarnation of god. How ironical it is that the members of a party which came to power on pretext of saving Ram, the god, was hand in glove with the killing of a guru on that fateful day in August 2006.
As if the killing of Prof. Sabharwal was not enough, there was more pain to follow. All the six Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members accused in his murder were set free by a Nagpur court. The mockery of Indian traditions and justice was on full public display. Well, if we believe the Nagpur court, no one actually killed Prof. Sabharwal. Its only incidental that he happen to die inside the premises of the Madhav College at the time of college elections. It is also adventitious that at the time of his death he was trying to see through the process without any bias to the party in power.
Campus killings are not new in India. Denial of justice is even more common. What is rare is the increasing audacity of killers owing allegiance to a specific political party or organization. The license to kill is freely available; you only need to be a part of an execrable nexus. A foot soldier of a party which can defend you and your evil actions. India is surely and steadily moving in the right direction. The road to anarchy. We are being sucked into a path of ideological vacuum, into a black hole of barbarism shielded by a distort and inclined judicial process.
Every time we have a killing we look towards the judiciary with conjecture and hope and each time we whince in despair. Babu Bajrangi, Sajjan Kumar, Vikas Yadav, Mohd. Shahabuddin, Manu Sharma; the endless list of tombstones in India’s judicial graveyard. We are not even allowed to mourn the death of this process of justice as it amounts to contempt. The law guards its dead and the dying with paramount strictness and acerbity.
In all honesty it would be inappropriate to burden the judiciary with all the corpses of India’s morality. The court is the end process of the game of coercion. The fuel to run this machinery of murder comes from a defunct and feckless political class, the proud guardians of our democracy. Beasts who cannot look beyond the arithmetic of votes and seats. The arithmetic of death does not matter. The universality of this political class is beyond doubt. Left, right and centre, they are everywhere, omnipresent and all powerful. Any attempt of resistance to this process of decay is dealt with cold blooded savagery.
Prof. Sabharwal would have been alive had he realized this simple fact. To be alive and happy in India you have to look the other way. Look the other way if a woman is being stripped in broad daylight. Ignore if a child of twelve is being lynched by a crowd for a petty theft. Show disdain to a girl being burnt alive by eve teasers. What if few hundred adivasis die each day defending what they think is theirs. Apathy and insouciance are the mantras of survival in today’s India. Fortunately there are many like Prof Sabharwal who think and act otherwise. They resist the cold, iron grip of this nexus of murderers and guardians. They wriggle and show signs of life. They breathe and actuate action. They are uncomfortable for the system and its mandarins. They have to obey or they have to be eliminated to keep the system going. To keep the plunder alive. The hippodrome of political hegemony should have its characters intact; to let the show go on. The circus of death and barbarism.
It’s time that we, the people of India, rise from our ashes and resist what we think and know is incorrect. To register our protest and show our abject rejection of corrupt authority. We need to resuscitate our system with the much needed esprit of hope and change. We have to move and show signs of life or it won’t be long that the licentious serpent of political class and murderous thugs will swallow us. To Prof. Sabharwal I can only say, sir, we regret loosing you at the altar of political power and a gimpy judiciary but your death has not gone un-mourned. The lamenting from your death will be loud enough to breech the walls of those who sit comfortably making plans for a future murder. We apologize we couldn’t give you respect as a teacher. I assure we will give dignity to the purpose of your death. We couldn’t guarantee your safety. We pledge to eliminate those who rot the system. We regret we couldn’t give you justice. We promise to vindicate your stand.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Gay Rights and Us

Indians are devastated. There is an urgency to address issues of public morality and answer questions like what are we going to say to our children? People of all faith and religion are flocking together to understand the ugliness of the statement made by the Delhi High Court legalising gay relationships. The viciousness of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community is being celebrated on all television channels across the country. In a recent debate on a prominent TV channel, a retired police commissioner lambasted a guy rights activist. Imagine, morality pouring out of the mouth of a police commissioner! How ridiculous could that be? In fact, by the most rough estimates, the High Court statement stands to ablactate our Police force of significant money which was routinely extracted as hafta (weekly extortion sum) from Hijras and transgender on our streets. It is a different matter that the policewalas of India are too chic to be let down by the diction of an old judge of the High Court. This brings us to the broader question. How justified are we in condemning legalisation of LGBT rights?
Legalising LGBT relationships have two entirely divergent angles. It is both an issue of religious faith and a matter of human rights. Unfortunately, as a bystander, I have seen on more than a single occasion that religion and human rights don’t go hand in hand. Our experiences with Taliban in Afghanistan, with Church’s posturing on abortion and in recent times with forces of hindutva in Gujarat are more than ample evidence to prove the point. So do we expect that major religions of this country would go all out to embrace the LGBT community with open arms? Not really. Hinduism is full of verses depriving those who indulge in a homosexual relationship. Manusmriti talks of loss of caste or Gatibhramsa for those who are in such rapport. Being a Muslim I know that Islam prohibits homosexual relationships. But then Islam also prohibits alcohol, pork and idol worship. Should the Muslims go all out in India asking the government to ban these? The restrictions imposed by a vibrant democracy teach us to rein our religious thoughts and practices to a more personal level. Whenever the boundaries of personal and public discourse on issues of faith get blurred, the country is engulfed by a squall of blood. How commonly have we seen the eruption of violent conflicts started by the carcass of a cow in a temple or a pig in a mosque? Expectedly the most severe condemnation on the High Court judgement has come from the Islamic seat of Deoband. Having said this, it’s interesting to note that Muslim scholars in US and Europe have never spoken in so harsh and ruthless language against the LGBT community in these regions. Possibly acceptance of a practice takes time and the scholars in those countries are more evolved on the social understanding of sexual orientation of people.
This brings us to the issue of public morality. How many times have we heard the use of this word in all public debates on legalisation of LGBT relationships? Public morality in India, as I understand, is a weapon of a class to be used without much justification on the most downtrodden creatures of the society. Public morality goes for a toss when a girl is burnt alive by petty eve teasers. Public morality is thrown out of the window when issuing censure certificates to bollywood movies which would be good enough to be labelled as pornographic. Public morality is raped and molested each day on Indian buses, Goan beaches and red light areas. Public morality is burnt and thrashed in the name of dowry and female foeticide. Yet we Indians accept public morality as a shield against any act of human upliftment and social change. Change which does not suite our style, our culture, our values and our petty needs can be easily sacrificed at the altar of public morality without any questions asked or eyebrows raised. It is interesting to see that there has not been a single case of conviction in last twenty years in accordance with Article 377 in this country. Public morality is Rip Van Winkle, awake after twenty years of deep stupor.
In my opinion, the real context of the LGBT issue is a matter of human rights. We live in a democratic country, governed by a constitution which imparts equal rights to all irrespective of their religious faith, class, gender or age. Although the impartiality of this statement can be questioned, the essence of the constitution remains pristine. In legalising guy rights in India, the Delhi High Court has shown its abject acceptance of a community which has long been eschewed in our society. To me, this is an empowerment of kinds. It has nothing to do with religious decrees and narrow social fiats through which our lives are governed. This is accepting those who live life as they think is good and natural for them. If we cannot accept this change then we should have reservations on orders prohibiting sati and child marriage. It is a matter of serious thinking that in a complex dynamic world, are we ready to accept social change as and when it comes or are we still trapped in our past. By supporting the legalisation of gay rights we do not accept the practice (at least I don’t), we accept a broader relevance of human rights. Some of these rights might not be acceptable and palatable to us but if they give freedom to a big hunk of the society, they should be relevant and meaningful. It is wrongly felt that by legalising the LGBT community, the Delhi High Court has opened the flood gates for such relationships. “Oh my God, my son will be a gay now”, screamed a man from inside his new Skoda on a TV channel. I wish I could tell him that his son will be a gay or a heterosexual not because of the High Court order but because of his sexual orientation and preferences. These are misconceptions which make our society handicap to accepting change. It’s high time that we change our attitudes and preferences for social acceptability. Our morality should not be based on bigotry. Intolerance can destroy civilisations. Social change is the sine qua non of survival. Good or bad, social changes need time to manifest their full impact. As a democratic country we need to give this time.