About Akbaruddin Owaisi’s speech

Let me start off by reviewing it. The plot was missing, the screenplay was all over the place, the dialogs were cliched and made you cringe, the camera work was shoddy and the acting was non existent. The supporting actors were confused about their cue and the lead actor was more juvenile than anything. He needs to speak proper Urdu if he needs a wider audience. Every time he used a khaaf in place of a qaaf I died a little.  He needs to improve his overall approach if he wishes to contend for a spot among the great hate mongers. However I must say there was this weird entertaining factor that you find with a badly made C movie. Would I watch it again? Sure, why not. To sum it up, it was like Zakir Naik meets Tahir ul Qadri meets Arnab Goswami

Although the previous paragraph was mostly in jest, the last line wasn’t. This man and his speech must be given same treatment as one would to people mentioned: chuckling and ignoring. However, the majority of the citizens, including the liberal intellectuals, are dead against such speeches and there is a huge uproar about arresting him and imprisoning him. The offense is exacerbated as he is an MLA.

While conventional wisdom says he must be prosecuted as the speech was hateful, indecent and against spirit of co existence, and there are indeed laws to that effect, I have two things to say.

First and foremost, this hate speech is harmless. You might be shocked (and probably wondering if I am a  Muslim myself  – you naughty naughty ) but don’t be. This is another instance of the rule I talk about here . Apply that to this and you shall see what I mean.

Secondly, wouldn’t an MLA always look to say and do what his future voters would like, whether or not he endorses them at a personal level? Isn’t an MLA supposed to appease his constituency and reassure them? Looking at it that way, he was just being an your typical Indian politician elected to represent a constituency.

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On Society and Moral Policing

For better or for worse, women have always generated a lot of angst and debate in society. Wars have been fought. Cities have been burnt. Philosophies have emerged. Policies have been abolished . Policies have been framed.

Recently, the news has been ridden with stuff like:

MLA blames women for eve-teasing
Women should dress carefully…
Women should dress ‘carefully’: NCW chief
Misogyny in popular culture: Indian cinema is equally culpable
Rajasthan: MLA calls for ban on skirts, gets one

Of course, where there are ‘regressives and conservatives’ there are bound to be ‘progressives and liberals’. I will paraphrase some of the clichés and platitudes most favored by liberals.

Wearing revealing clothes isn’t a license to rape a woman
It is my body and I’ll wear whatever I like
The problem in the society is due to the misogyny in movies
Movies featuring rapes and item songs are ruining the society

The SlutWalk thing, which is invariably supported tacitly by liberals, had plenty of posters like Stop Staring: This Is Not an Invitation to Rape Me

The point is, the liberals say moral policing of women’s way of dressing is wrong, and even misogynist in this rabidly patriarchal society, while censoring entertainment media for the moral good is necessary and recommended. I find this stance inherently contradictory. The statements boil down to these two questions:

  1. Does a woman who dresses in a certain way invite sexual harassment, or even assaults?
  2. Does a form of entertainment featuring women in a perceived negative light instill and propagate such morals in the society that lead to the negative consequences embodied in the first question?

There are, in general, two categories of people: those who generalize their answer with a “yes”, and those with a “no”. I find both stance stupid. So now I have to show two things – why is the liberal stance contradictory and why is the generalization stupid. Let’s analyze.

The two questions are specific instances of the general structure – Looking at provocative things leads to bad action. Actually, the question can be reduced further, by leaving out such subjective and loaded words like “provocative” and “bad”, but this is the form that interests us (also, we would eventually arrive at this specific case from the general case, so let us start from here directly).

When we apply this structure as a rule to the above questions, how can one produce a TRUE and another FALSE? This is why I find the liberal stance contradictory. Does it mean there are different kinds of provocations, kind of weighted by their evil?  No. How provocative is a provocation depends on a particular person.  It is a conditional thing and cannot be generalized. Causality in society is conditional. I’ll show how. To answer “why?” one would have to go into a proper social psychology study. But instead, let us do a simple thought experiment.

Imagine an open roofed room separated by a wall making two rooms. Let’s call the left side the “wrong side” and the right side, well, the “right side”. Let the whole population be divided into three groups, not necessarily equally. The first one belongs to left and the second one to right. People are free to jump across the wall. The third group stands on the wall. Walking up to the wall and climbing it is a necessary step to stand on it. The actions moving up to the wall, climbing it and jumping across are caused by a provocative thing. Jumping shows committing to the action. Thus the left side has people who have finished the action as provoked completely.

Let there be a series of provocative things exposed to the right side population emanating from the left side. It shouldn’t difficult to see that not everyone not already on the other side would jump across. Neither do everyone who walks up to the wall climbs it, and nor do all wall standers. Some jump across and remain there. Some stand on the wall forever. Some wall standers almost jump. Some wall standers fall. Some never budge from their position, wherever they might be. Some keep jumping across. Some stand close to the wall. There are endless scenarios.

Let’s see how this room metaphor works with the provocations cited in the two questions. If the left side room is filled by rapists and the right side room is exposed to a woman wearing ‘sexually provocative’ clothing, what would happen? The truly pure might avert their eyes (I we stop and think, we can see that probably these are the most vulnerable and unsure of themselves, so have to resort to forceful aversion by closing their eyes). Many might ogle. Many of the oglers might fantasize. Some might molest. Some might attempt to rape. Some might succeed in raping. Similar thing will be observed in case of the left room being filled by murderers and rapists and the right room exposed to sleazy and violent movies. Because it is a conditional thing, generalization is stupid (In fact, all generalization is stupid :p). Not only stupid but lies, misleading and dangerous.

QED.

PS: I have said “jump across”, which implies people from “wrong side” could come over to “right side”. Does it mean people reform? Well, that’s another story for another time.

My verdict on the Ayodhya verdict

Today is Gandhi jayanthi. It has been two days of magical peace and harmony since the verdict on the Ayodhya dispute was pronounced by the Allahabad high court. Gandhiji would have really been moved to tears at this non violent gesture by the people. It is still unclear to me if this rare display of maturity is due to the heavy security deployment that thwarted the political parties always responsible in creating havoc or is it due to the majority community, the Hindus, having a sense of vindictive victory or if the people have really moved on. Whatever may be the reason, the end result is certainly a huge sigh of relief to every sane normal citizen.

But that doesn’t mean that the decision was welcome with open arms. What would have become a bloody street fight in the previous years has transformed into a raging debate. Is this India growing past its juvenile years? I certainly hope so.

There was a lot of talk, by everyone, prior to the judgment of completely accepting and respecting the verdict. And it seems these people didn’t really expect such a creative and sagacious judgment that would pave way for the long pending dialogue leading to harmony. And this, people could not take and have started whining about.

Some people may call it “Ayogya” verdict but I disagree.

I am a person who doesn’t respect any religion or faith. I am not a blind hardcore atheist but experience and history has provided ample evidence leading me to loathe. While every religion no doubt preaches love, peace and harmony among other things, the practitioners seem to overlook that and squabble about the superiority of what they follow, leading to deaths and destructions. They however do tactfully use the “love, peace and harmony” card when necessary to defend their faith. Yet, even I found this decision to be a good one and hence my description of sagacious.

I, like many, accept that the destruction of the mosque in 1992 was a shameful act, not only unlawful and unconstitutional at a legal level but also dividing people at an emotional level. The perpetrators must be prosecuted accordingly, irrespective of their supposed stature. But the main argument against the verdict is that it is based solely on faith and sentiments and not on hard evidence. That to me is a hypocritical and inane argument.

People’s lives revolve around some kind of faith and belief or the other and no one can deny it. Even atheists like me believe that belief and faith are futile. So it is impossible and impractical to leave out belief.

Why would a witness take an oath in the court of law that is supposed to be not a place for faith and sentiment? And why the statements of a witness under oath are trusted and why are witnesses committing perjury punished? Shouldn’t a scientific method like a polygraph be employed instead?

Then, it is incredibly bold and dumb of the “intellectuals”, that comprise of Muslims, including Zafaryab Jilani and “secular” Hindus, to argue that faith of Hindus alone cannot be a valid point that is central to the verdict and hence they are grieved. The very same people (Muslims) later go on to say that according to Shariah law, not even an inch of the site that had a mosque could be acceded and hence they will appeal to Supreme Court. Now, what is this Shariah? Is it some kind of scientifically moderated and proofread document or a document that is considered sacred solely by faith?

People argue that if such a precedent is set by the judiciary where matter of faith outweighs evidence then a lot of litigations may follow suit and win purely on the matter of faith. I don’t say it is wrong but it is a lot more complicated than such oversimplification.

Faith is like sedimentary rock. Over a period of time since its inception, layers upon layers of embellishments pile up. Every generation adds its own version that leads to amplifying the potency of the faith.

Let us suppose a building that was built upon a site previously owned by Nithyananda (the infamous scandalous sex guru from Bangalore) was demolished by his followers. When the followers claim faith in him for their actions, it won’t stand ground, at least in his own generation, as people will be fully aware of his “deeds”. How many skeptics are out there to expose the Sathya Sai Baba? But look what has happened to Shirdi Sai Baba. Because he belonged to a couple of centuries earlier, enough time has passed to strengthen his cult. That is same with Ayyappa, Raghavendra or even Guru Nanak, Jesus and Muhammad. In fact, that has what has happened to each and every historical or mythological prophets, god-men and good-men. Their cult has strengthened over time. Even Jesus and Muhammad had to famously face tremendous opposition in their own times. Whereas Jesus chose the path of peace, at least according to apostles, to maintain his claims, Muhammad chose a hardened path. But after thousands of years, their faithful outnumber their skeptics (who culturally belong to the same religion as the faithful).

The same way no one can prove that Abraham of Judaism, Christianity and Islam existed and corroborate his story, and yet he and the stone he placed at Kaaba, Mecca are revered unconditionally by the Muslims, it follows that Rama, Krishna etc of Hinduism and their associated places of sanctity must be understood and respected as well just based on the built up faith in the Hindus.

Faith and sentiments cannot apply to just one party.

Moreover, this has always been an issue involving faith and sentiments, which can never be resolved by any courts anywhere. But because people took it to courts, they would have to abide by the court’s decision. Our democracy and legal system sure allows the party dissatisfied with the verdict of lower courts to appeal to higher courts but that sort of hardened stance overlooking this golden opportunity of reconciliation is going to be disastrous. If and when the Supreme Court pronounces a clear winner and a loser, I hope people would have moved on further and would show absolute apathy and indifference to any provocations that may ensue.

I had been advocating a school or a hospital at that site. I believe that education and health are the basic building blocks for the development of our country. One more school/hospital will go a long way to help achieve progress compared to one more (or less) temple/mosque. I, like all, had never expected this kind of a verdict by the court. It truly reflects our secularism. Granted, I haven’t read the judgment like most but the end verdict is truly sagacious, despite what some pundits describe as “panchayati”.

Irrespective of further appeals, at least now,  that a verdict of sorts is out on this, we can move on to addressing the real burning issues that hold value to our future, like poverty, unemployment, corruption etc. As I said elsewhere, shall we now concentrate our energy and spending on prosecuting and awarding some prison time aka Krishna janmasthan to corrupt authorities, starting with Kalmadi and co?