Category Archives: India

The real significance of the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign

Now that the Valentine’s Day 2009 and the Pink Chaddi campaign is in our rear view mirror – it’s` a good time to analyze the real significance of the campaign and what it portends for the Indian society. The campaign, if you want to read the tea leaves, shows why India has never been and never will be Talibanised, why it will never become a Saudi Arabia, an Afghanistan or a Pakistan.

There is a strain in the Indian population, that views any sort of extremism with extreme distaste and disgust; there is this natural tendency to pull back from extremist views and actions. This was demonstrated in the defeat of the four BJP state governments post Babri Masjid demolition, this was demonstrated in BJP’s governing style when they were forced to govern from the center during the Bajpai government and now, the Pink Chaddi campaign is a great example of this strain. What was even more laudatory about this campaign was the way in which the Indian society registered its protest. There were no violent demonstrations, no agitations – just a humorous,  tongue-firmly-in-the-cheek idea that poked fun at the extremists, ridiculed their nickname (chaddi-wallahs) and made them look extremely silly.

This idea of protesting at injustice in a non-violent manner is extremely Indian – or if I might dare say it, extremely Hindu. I firmly believe that the reason why India has stood as a stalward of secularism and a multi-cultural society while countries around it like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka have fallen prey to ethnic and religious divides is the benign and accomodating views of its Hindu majority. This could be due to the flexibility of the Hindu religion and culture or some other reason, but the strain is there – the Pink Chaddi campain again proves it. We have to zealously guard ourselves to make sure that we preseve and pass on this strain to our future generations and to not let the Modis, Thackereys and the different Senes of the world take over the Indian society. It is a very short road from beating up women for visiting the pubs to beheading them for wearing skirts and lets keep that road closed forever.

Why Good Ideas Die In India!

Flouting rules comes easy to us, unless of course someone is there with a danda monitoring us. The higher we are in the socio-political power structure, the bigger danda we need to keep us in line – there are no exceptions from the poor day laborer to the richest person, everyone tries to get away with as much as possible. Now, this is nothing unique to India – I’ve been told that Italians are in close competition with us. But I do believe that we (and most likely the subcontinent) might be unique in the extent of this behavior. From the smallest regulation like the requirement to wear the seat belt to doing a Satyam, our society is ridden with this behavior.

Thus this report in Hindustan Times comes as no surprise to me – have opportunity, will flout a rule even though it makes life more difficult for everyone else around you.

Bus_Corridor

A Shameless Act!

The blood has not even dried on the streets of Mumbai, there is still a raging battle going on inside the Taj but the BJP is asking for votes in the name of those who have died protecting the country.

It is rich that BJP is claiming to be the one who can keep the country safe because after all –

  • It is the BJP that has electoral ties with Shiv Sena and the Thackereys – people who are no less terrorists.
  • It was the BJP government which took terrorists in a jet to Kandahar begging for the life for Indian citizens.
  • It was the BJP government that was asleep at the wheel when the Kargil incursion happened.

What a shame and what a shameful advertisement – woe be on you Advani and gang.

India – Sizzling economically but a moral pygmy!

A lot has been made of the fact that a large number of Non-resident Indians (NRIs) are going back to India because of her sizzling economy and a desire to be close to family. However, the recent spate of controversies over the right to free speech and the lack of India’s commitment to it should be reason enough to give freedom loving people a reason to reconsider their decision. If I ever decide to return back to India (or if I am forced to, given the green card mess in the US), I would be more worried about my rights rather than the supposedly sizzling economy. Here are some of the recent controversies and issues that really have made me disappointed and angry:

  • A 26 year old blogger gets arrested in Bangalore because he supposedly posted some pictures of that great Maharashtrian icon, Shivaji on Orkut and Airtel ratted on him. Compare that to what happened recently in the US where the US Congress took Yahoo to task because their Chinese subsidiary gave him a political activist in that country. Jerry Yang, Yahoo’s co-founder and CEO got an earful from the Congress and apologized to the mother of the Chinese dissident.
  • Madhuri Dixit’s comeback vehicle, “Aaja Nachle” gets banned in certain states because apparently it contains some derogatory references to a particular community. C’mon folks – for how long will Indian political leaders continue pandering to special interest groups?
  • Tasleem Nasreen gets booted from, yes of all the places, Calcutta. Goes to prove that political expediency is certainly thicker than both, claims of intellectual honesty and cultural and ethical relations. After all, the left has always boasted about its commitment to free speech and of course, Tasleema Nasreen is a fellow Bengali. India made a royal mess of things and became a laughing stock with the spectacle of this courageous woman being carted around in an attempt to appease a group of extremist Islamists. It really made me ashamed of the country of my birth.
  • Fittingly, the disgusting behavior meted out to Ms. Nasreen brought back memories of the “Satanic Verses” controversy. It has been pointed out that Indian intellectuals and Indian extremist Muslims had the head start in starting this controversy. The Indian political establishment promptly capitulated and Khomeini joined in the fun soon after. I have a copy of Satanic Verses on my shelf and it is on my to-read list. Unfortunately, people in India have been denied this right.

So folks, gloat all you want over the well deserved giant strides that India has made recently in economic development, but when it comes to moral standing in the world over freedom of speech rights and the ability of the state to treat all its citizens equally, India has a long way to go.

A Journey Down the Ganga

Philip Reeves, the National Public Radio (NPR) correspondent has just finished a brilliant radio series on his journey along the Ganga river in India. In five parts of about 10 minutes each, he explores life along the river. NPR has archived the entire series on its website – it is a fascinating journey and well worth the time spent listening to it.

Some of you might feel offended by the fact that Mr. Reeves talks about the uglier facts about India’s economic progress, the people who are being left behind and might attribute it to the propensity of the foreign journalists to highlight only the bad aspects about India. My thinking is that, “Hey! don’t kill the messenger”. In fact, it is a shame that for decades, we have to rely on foreign journalists to bring us such thoughtful and provoking pieces of reportage. Listen to it and see if something stirs in your middle-class soul.

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