If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A Question

A Question 
You've sent your messengers, Oh Lord,
Time and again to this pitiless world.
They’ve said, “Forgive,” said “Love and be kind,
Wipe hatred off your mind.”
I revere them, bow to them, but still, in this terrible time,
I’ve sent them back into frosty rime.

I’ve seen hidden violence in decaying nights
Has maimed innocents, snuffed out lights.
I’ve seen because of crimes by men with boundless power
Messages of justice cringe and cower.
I have seen a young boy running helpless … in terrible pain,
In distress, hitting’s head on a wall again 'n again.

My voice is choked today, my flute has lost its tune
A moonless night has banished my world to a dark cocoon
I'd ask you why?
With tears streaming my eyes, 

Those poisoning your air, crushing every spark of light,
Do you love them? Do you forgive their might?

                                                             – Rabindranath Tagore

Mohammed Afroz, the torturer of 23-year old Jyoti Singh, who will have a permanent place in the conscience of India as “Nirbhaya”, has been set free because when he raped and tortured Jyoti, he was a few months under 18. And to our blind law, anyone under eighteen is a child. A child? A child can rape and torture a girl with such unimaginable ferocity? When the girl was squirming in pain and begging for reprieve, this “child” increased the intensity of torture, pushing an iron rod deeper into her. These are not lurid details concocted by a journalist, this is what Jyoti's male friend, who too was critically injured, told the world.
I do believe there are humans who are beyond the bounds of humanity. I don’t know if they can ever be reformed, but even if they can be, such experiments should be done behind impregnable walls of a prison. Afroz has been set free, he knows that the whole world is against him except for a stupid state government and imbecile do-gooders who are trying to “reform” him by giving him a sewing machine. But if I have any understanding of the human nature, it is just a question of time before Afroz finds another girl and repeats his act. Reform is possible with humans, a leopard doesn’t change its spots.
And it is not about the safety of individual girls alone. Setting Afroz free is a slap on the face of every Indian woman. The people who have conspired to set him free, and the people who have interpreted the law just as a mindless computer would do, didn’t do so because they are magnanimous or meticulous.
I am not a social anthropologist, but I believe that the male dominated Indian society – like many others – still nurtures deep-rooted hatred against women. And the visible progress that women in India have made since independence makes them uncomfortable somewhere deep within. It also makes some of them think that the bitches should be shown their place. Remember the lawyer who defended Jyoti’s rapist(s) said he would burn his daughter if she went out for late-night movies? At the end of the day, our society just doesn’t care for women. Setting free Afroz confirms that fact.
The wave of anger against the decision to set him free for no reason other than the accident of his date of birth is natural. But what can we do? Our only power is to elect a bunch of goons every five years. Do we have any say in our affairs after that?
I went through routine activities yesterday, but inside, I was deeply disturbed. I really didn’t know what to think. But last night, my cousin Subhoreminded me that we Bengalis are fortunate. When everything else fails, we can sit on the shores of a vast ocean called Rabindranath. I began this article with my incompetent translation of a poem by Tagore which is perhaps more relevant today than at any other time.

Kolkata / 22 December 2015

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Aamir Khan must go to Pakistan

According to Merriam-Webster, a kangaroo court is a “mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted.”

Just as wild mobs in parts of India lynch men suspected to be thieves, or burn helpless old women suspected to be witches, just as khap panchayats brutally murder young couples for having married outside their castes, over the last two days, lots of educated Indians who use the Internet – including people I know and respect – have passed their judgement on Aamir Khan because of something he said on 23 Nov in an interview. Let’s see what three kangaroo court judges have said. (These are random samples taken from thousands of similar views most of which are more vitriolic and a lot of which are in unprintable language):

  • ‪#‎AamirKhan‬ requesting tolerable AK to move out of this intolerant country where he was reigning since 3 decades (sic.)
  • Ya please go PAKISTAN, MR #AamirKhan (sic.)
  • #AamirKhan Don't spread COMMUNAL atmosphere in my India and YES, YOUR STATEMENT IS TOTALLY COMMUNAL.

It’s quite possible that many of these people haven’t taken into account Aamir’s astounding contribution to the Indian society, or even cared to read his entire statement on intolerance. First, let’s look back to what he has done for his country. He is not just another celebrity actor. He has contributed hugely to the Indian society over three decades. In this respect, he stands out tall and alone. Besides masala films, Aamir Khan has consistently chosen to act in films with a strong social message, e.g., Mangal Pandey: the Rising, Rang de Basanti, 3 Idiots, and so on.

Let’s ignore everything else except just two of his films and a TV talk show. He has produced and acted in Lagaan and Taare Zameen Par. The second movie was also directed by him. And he brilliantly hosted Satyamev Jayate, a TV talk show, between 2012 and 2015.

Lagaan (Taxation) was a film that introduced millions of post-independence Indians to the violence and injustices of colonial India. It was not history, but carried the essence of the history of colonialism beautifully.

Taare Zameen Par (Like Stars on Earth) has educated Indians about autism – and has perhaps saved tens of thousands of dyslexic children from ridicule and lack of empathy. Admittedly, the solution shown in the film was simplistic, but we’re talking about its impact on the society, not other aspects.

About Satyamev Jayate (Truth Alone Prevails), Wikipedia writes:
The show focuses on sensitive social issues … in India such as female foeticide, child sexual abuse, rape, honour killing, domestic violence, untouchability, alcoholism, and the criminalization of politics.
The first season of Satyamev Jayate saw responses from viewers in 165 countries, including Djibouti, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, ... and Papua New Guinea. A sum of Rs.22.3 crore was received as donations by the NGOs featured on this season. The second season was watched by 600 million Indians. The causes raised in the second season were supported by over 30 million people and the season generated more than one billion impressions online.
To put it simply, what Aamir Khan has contributed to India, his detractors won’t be able to match even if they lived 500 years. And yet, we, peanut-munching, chai-sipping Indians without a sense of history but with access to the Net are so quick to rubbish this wonderful individual.

You can read detailed excerpts of the interview in Indian Express, 25 Nov. Two days before, at an event hosted by the same newspaper in New Delhi, Aamir Khan didn’t refer to Dadri, where a mob lynched a 51-year-old man and grievously injured his son because they suspected the family had consumed beef. Neither did he refer to the prime minister, but said, “Often, on television debates … BJP that is ruling right now, is accused of various things. They say, ‘But what happened in 1984?’ But that doesn’t make right what is happening now. What happened in 1984 was disastrous and horrendous, but whenever there is a violent act, when an innocent person is killed, be it one or in large number, that’s very unfortunate. And these unfortunate moments are the ones when we look towards our leaders to take a strong step … to make statements that are reassuring to us as citizens of this country. I also feel a sense of insecurity. There is a sense of fear.”

Let’s recall that two weeks after the Dadri lynching, our globe-trotting PM found the time to describe the event as ‘unfortunate’, and that too, after the President prodded him subtly.

Answering a follow-up question, he said about his wife, “Kiran and I have lived all our life in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India? That’s a disastrous and very big statement for Kiran to make to me. She fears for her child, she fears what this atmosphere around us will be, she feels scared to open the newspapers every day.”

Responding to a question from the audience about the link between Islam and the recent Paris attacks, Aamir said he didn’t regard any terrorist claiming to be acting in the name of Islam as a Muslim, “He may feel he’s doing an Islamic act but as a Muslim I don’t feel he’s doing an Islamic act,” said Aamir.


Has Aamir Khan said anything against Hindus or Indians? Has he said anything about going to Pakistan?

Does he not have the right to express his fears in “tolerant” India? Are his fears unfounded? Please don’t forget that he lives and works in Mumbai, where everyone, from Karan Johar to the Bihari porter, is scared of the two factions of a rabidly communal Maratha Hindu outfit whose writ runs on many matters from how to write signboards to who can sing or play cricket there. Are we morons who have forgotten what happened to a man called Maqbul Fida Hussain, who was no less a celebrity than Aamir Khan? No Dear Reader, even Aamir Khan can feel unsafe.

Or are the detractors saying Aamir is actually not scared, but is pretending to be scared? Can any sane person – after going through his public record over the last three decades – believe that Aamir is saying all this just to embarrass the government of the day?

Instead of throwing mud at him in the virtual world and blackening and burning his posters in the real world, can we not stop and think if there is any reason for even such an eminent person to feel insecure? And if he does, what is going through the minds or ordinary Muslims (and other minorities) in far corners of India where law and order is just a concept, not a reality?

Ironically, the thousands of Indians who are abusing Aamir Khan today in the vilest language are just proving his point – minorities in India have every reason to feel threatened today.

Kolkata, Wednesday, 25 November 2015