Monday, October 4, 2010


So, I have decided to shift to WordPress.

It was fun being associated with Blogger, but had always been missing the WordPress comments system. Moreover, some of the features there are quite attractive.

I hope, my Blog followers will continue to read me. :)

My new blog is here (click).

New blog's RSS feeds:

It is just about possible that I return to Blogger, but then it is unlikely. :)

Thank you all!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Commonwealth Games will Not be a Dud - a Prediction

Please do not think the above title is written sarcastically, or that what follows is some kind of satire. No, rather quite to the contrary, I write the following in earnest.

I have for quite some time been skeptical of motives and methods of those who work for the Indian media, especially the national media, which includes English dailies, magazines and English and Hindi news channels, and the web sites managed by them (to whose works I get exposed; my exposure of the regional media is very little). I have highlighted the reason for this utter lack of trust in many posts of mine (click on the individual links to view them; they will open in a new window/tab):

1. Why the Indian National Media appears Anti-Hindu

2. Fine balance between lack of creativity and its excess.

3. So many inconsistencies in news reporting of "two lady doctors killing a rape victim's baby in Raigad"!

4. These are not Diwali Firecrackers, please!

5. S.I.T. Back and Enjoy Pop-Corny NewsXXX

6. Spinning Yarns to Make Undies on TV

In last 3 to 4 months, the national media has come down heavily in its criticism of the Commonwealth Games, 2010 (click) to be held in Delhi. The media has been able to convince vast majority of people that the games are going to be a dud, that many things are going to fall at the games venue, people will get injured and that large-scale mismanagement would become manifest. In fact, many have enthusiastically declared the event as "national shame" quite in advance. I have gathered that the impression among most Indians I get to interact with is that after the games get over, India would become a laughing stock in the world owing to its inability to organize events at such large scale. Of course, all that is apart from the many allegations and a some circumstantial evidence of corruption. But I am contending that except for the allegations of corruption, rest all will be proved untrue, meaning, in all likelihood, after the games are over, lot of Indians would be left with a feeling of wonder as they would be awe-struck by the grandeur and meticulousness of planning.

So, this begs the question, why the media had chosen to pursue the Games the way they did? Allegations had been flowing thick and fast, especially that of corruption with random figures thrown around as the "estimate" of the scale of corruption - from Rs. 20,000 crore to Rs. 70,000 crore. Of course, just like all other figures that media throws up, these must be attributed to some "sources", who would be well, "noted" or "eminent" or "well-placed" or "inside", etc.

Now, assuming my contention that games would not be a grand failure as anticipated by, and projected by the media, then what was the motive behind media's projecting things thus? What all purposes did it serve?

Of course, one might contend that the media acting in good faith, was only bringing to light all the corruption involved ("waterproof" umbrella, exotic tissue, etc). But good faith would have involved merely highlighting the issues related to corruption, not the other things which would convince people that the games' execution is going to be pathetic. Moreover, good faith would have also entailed providing some reasonable support for their estimate of the scale of corruption involved.

My following analysis largely draws from a comment I had posted on Atanu Dey's blog post - The Games Built on a Cesspool (click). My premise (outlined in the blog post - 'Why the Indian National Media appears Anti-Hindu' liked above) is that the national media works in a fashion that largely benefits the Nehru-Gandhi family (and not necessarily the Congress Party as some might believe; the difference is subtle, but not something very difficult to appreciate). Though we all are reacting violently in public fora at this sort of alleged corruption, Indians are actually subconsciously quite alright with corruption. We have come to terms with corruption in every walk of our life, and we also know that the larger the scale of an event, greater would be the corruption. What hardly matters to common people is the scale of corruption as very few can actually appreciate the impact a certain amount of money siphoned off could have on the nation's economy or infrastructure. To give an example very few people actually work out in their minds, that with certain amount of money alleged to be involved in corruption, how many hospitals, schools, bridges, etc. could have been built. But what matters more is the area in which corruption is alleged – so corruption in ‘games’ is quite alright, but not in defense deals [Bangaru Laxman and Jaya Jaitley had received much flak, despite virtually zero-evidence and for a much paltry sum, perhaps because it was associated with 'defense' - on which lives of so many people depend], education schemes, medical care, religious organizations, etc. But what amuses me is that figures of corruption in organization of CWG of various kinds are being floated around, with almost no evidence, and that nobody is asking for any evidence! It has become a fair game to make a guess of scale of corruption and throw around numbers, just like the number of dead Muslims in Gujarat riots of 2002. Any random figure supported with right kind of rhetoric to support it would be bought as 'true'!

a. So how does this help the Nehru-Gandhi family?

1. It appears that Kalmadi might have not been the first choice of the family for CWG organization but they could not prevent his heading the body, or perhaps he must have not been paying his haftaa – protection money, on which I had done a song parody (click). The mounting media pressure is a way to make him pay up. They (Nehru-Gandhi family) are using similar tactic against A. Raja [someone had pointed out that despite some of the most important ministries that Congress has, the most profiting ones like the Railways and Telecommunications are not with them, so they desperately want them, and this media pressure is again an attempt towards that].

2. The apparently incidental, but perhaps, the true target of this attack is Sheila Dikshit (click). I had the opportunity to live in Delhi for around 10 months, and I thought her governance is good [in that how much Delhi had improved over last decade - both in terms of infrastructure and one vital area, viz., crime control]. Of course I am not taking into consideration the amount of inflow of funds. But whatever be the case, she is one of the very few leaders in the Congress stable who does not live in the shadows of the family. Meaning, whether it be her criticism or praise, she has been seen as independent by many. I had heard of some instance of ‘rebellion’ by few Congress politicians against her a few years back, and someone had pointed out that it was engineered by the Gandhi family to weaken her position within the party. Of course that was also a conjecture, but I could see that pattern in many of the family’s and media’s actions [I am also aware of the flaw of this manner of thinking - I can go on citing incidents that seem to support my speculation, with disregard for other incidents that contradict it, but let me proceed with that technique]. And of course, the Gandhi family’s larger challenge, if one sees carefully, is not so much to keep the BJP and other parties out of power, but to keep others in the Congress itself from usurping their position! It would be naive to believe that all other Congress politicians are taken in by the fair skin of the Gandhis, and that they are bereft of any political ambition. But the fact that the supremacy of the family in the party is still unchallenged to this unimaginable degree only points to the possibility that something in working of the Congress party must make it excessively unyielding to show any ambition, or perhaps in some way, even perilous [three young and (electorally) 'promising' Congress leaders had died in the last decade in freak accidents]. Sheila Dikshit’s son is also a member of Parliament – another reason to be sure to keep her position weak.

b. Apart from the above factors, the ways in which this coverage is helping the media and the family is:

1. Distracting people from other events of greater gravity – hoisting of Pakistani flag in Kashmir, riots in Deganga in West Bengal (in which the ‘Pioneer’ reports that one or more persons had died), an unconfirmed burning of Shiva Temple in Kashmir (and the usual – rising food prices, farmer suicides, etc.). The treachery of Man Mohan Singh in the Nuclear Liability Bill is again something the CWG coverage had helped push largely under the carpet. Has anyone wondered, what degree of cheapness it was to have inserted “and” and “intent” as caveats in the bill? I am not going into the practical aspects of the deal (e.g., if having stringent criteria would make the deal so scary for the suppliers that they will decline to do business). Here was an incident, where despite the high amount of scrutiny, and possibly very grave eventual consequences, the Congress Party tried to hoodwink the entire nation! And what is interesting is that in response to the accusation of our prime minister being a puppet of the family, one of the shining examples of his independence that is advanced is his personal involvement in the Indian nuclear deal program!!! Compared to him, Shashi Tharoor surely got a very raw deal, whereas Dr. Singh escaped unscathed as a ‘clean’ politician despite much larger stakes. Neat, no? Why? Simply because, all along the prime example of corruption and deception that people will think of for quite some time to come will be Kalmaidi of the CWG infamy!

2. Using this as an instance, the media can always claim – “See, we critique the Congress also”! But what works here is the apparent lack of proximity of Kalmadi with the Gandhis, and also the fact that majority are going to think in terms of “games toh aakhir games hi hote hain” [Games are after all just that - games!]. So despite its extremely vicious coverage, the impression formed about the CWG does not make the family at all look bad as compared to say Babri demolition and the death of Muslims in Gujarat riots [Look carefully, on TV news, besides every allegation of corruption or broken tile or fallen bridge, the portrait would be of Kalmadi, and not someone from the family].

c. But, what will the media say after the games are over and (if) they are proved wrong with regard to grand failure of the games that they had been predicting for quite some time?

Nothing much! They will still continue to point out minor flaws of the games for a few days to come, or even start praising the game as if nothing had happened! Moreover, very few people will wonder why the CWG’s success would have proved them and the media wrong! Of course, few people might go into denial as to how come their confidence that the CWG would fail miserably could have been misplaced. But in the entire occurrence, almost no one would pause to wonder as to how come they were misled so convincingly by the media about the CWG's imminent failure, simply because, “games toh aakhir games hi hote hain” and the media would anyway start distracting their patrons with other such trivialities!

Of course, my entire analysis depends on CWG’s moderate to spectacular success, so unlike, Mani Shankar Ayyer, I am praying desperately for their success! ;) To hell with nation’s welfare and atheism! :P

The reason I decided to put up a prediction instead of doing a post-games analysis is to serve my narcissism. If my prediction proves correct, I could gloat - "see, I understand the media so well, all my conspiracy theories with regard to how media works are correct, etc, etc", but of course my theories also stand a chance of being proved wrong, in which I would have to eat a humble pie and throw a shoe at...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ethics in Tangents: Part 3 - Ayodhya Dispute and Claims from Faith

In this post I very briefly discuss the Ayodhya dispute, and using points of departure from it, try to point out the inferences that could be drawn. These inferences fall largely in the domain of ethics. Note here that I am not saying I am drawing these inferences, but that they could be drawn, and will rather try to show that the way ethics in our World are perceived and had perhaps traditionally been practiced in the past, there are many inconsistencies in their application. Readers are obviously encouraged to give their feedback, for I lay no claim to perfection in the logic I use (especially so in this blog post) as I deal with something so contentious that the Indian Judiciary has not been able to come up with a verdict on the 'ownership' of the land despite little paucity of, or for that matter, even need for evidence. In the process, I rely upon two major assumptions (kindly note the emphasis). The first one being that a temple devoted to Ram had actually existed in Ayodhya at the disputed site, and second, that journalist-writer, Dilip D'Souza (click) has paraphrased quite faithfully L. K. Advani's (and the BJP's) stance when he states the following in his article - Memories of resolution and resolve (click):

1. " could the courts rule on this matter of faith, they (BJP) asked righteously"
2. "For a man (Atal Behari Vajpayee) who resolved with his party -- then not in office, OK -- that the dispute could not be resolved in the courts, this is a complete and abject turnabout."
3. "Seeing hope now in the courts is as frankly silly as when Advani shouted hoarsely from his Toyota that no court on earth could decide this matter of faith"

So, from above three sentences used by Dilip, one could conclude that the BJP and especially so, Advani had asserted that: matters of faith cannot be decided by courts of law. Elsewhere in the same article, he is quoted to have provided both legislation or out-of-court settlement between the two religious communities as viable alternatives to break through the impasse.

The reasons I make the above assumptions are because they seem reasonable ones to make, and that there is little reason to be skeptical about them. Though I must point out that the first assumption has been contested. This contention, and the sequence of important events and their historical background could be found in two Wikipedia articles - Babri Mosque (click) and Ayodhya Debate (click), which I have incidentally used as my primary sources of information. This dispute is sourced in the 16th century, much, much before I was born. As is usually the case, history is rarely chronicled reliably, which is of special significance in the given issue. Moreover, I am not a professional historian, nor a journalist to have kept tabs on all the major events. Lastly, I was quite young when the Babri Mosque was demolished in 1992, of which I remember little. So obviously, my knowledge and understanding of the issue cannot be taken as an authoritative one, still I have formed opinions on it, which are in flux, and yet I venture out to publicize them for two reasons. One, there is hardly any subject on which the 'final word' is ever spoken. Meaning, we always come across new pieces of information that alter our opinions, or new arguments to shift our positions. So in most areas of life, we form opinions or reach decisions despite possessing knowledge and understanding that could be assessed as only far from complete, so why not on this one? Two, as I am not a stakeholder of the disputed site, nor an influential person insofar as my opinion can have a bearing on the final outcome of verdict to be announced on the 28th of this month, I believe, there is no harm in coming out with it (my take).

In very brief, I discuss the timeline of Ayodhya dispute, as I understand it:

1. 1558: 'Mir Banki' - a General of Babar, the Mughal ruler, destroys the Ram Temple.
2. 1850s: In the interim, both Hindus and Muslims used to worship at the site. However, there were clashes between the two communities in 1850s, and the British had built a fence around the main structure. Hindus were not allowed entrance, and they used to offer prayers on a raised platform. The festival of Ram Navmi (which marks the birth of Ram) was also celebrated by the Hindus at the site for at least since over a century.
3. 1883-86: Few representations were made by Hindus seeking permission to build a Temple on the raised platform, which were rejected by the British Judges.
4. 1934: There were some religious clashes between Hindus and Muslims, the Mosque was damaged, which was made good by the British.
5. 1936: Within the provisions of an act passed in 1936, the Mosque and the surrounding area were recognized to be owned by the 'UP Waqf Board'
6. 1949: Gradually, as claimed by Hindus, Muslim interest in the site had waned and by 1947, they had stopped offering Namaaz there. Moreover, the government had disallowed Muslims to enter within 200 m of the site. Only Hindus were allowed to enter, but that too through a side-door. [Here though, I must point out that if Muslims were anyway not offering prayers there, why would there be a need to make the site out-of-bounds for them? So, something is not making definite sense to me, but as I mentioned above, some of the details of events and reasons behind them remain unclear.]
7. 1949: Idols of Ram and Sita were sneaked into the Mosque at night. This was reported by the police, when discovered. The following morning a large mob of Ram devotees had tried to enter the Mosque, but which was prevented from doing so. At this point, the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru on learning of the incident had ordered removal of the two idols from the temple. Significantly, a Waqf Inspector at around that time had complained that Hindus would jeer at Muslims entering and exiting the Mosque for offering Namaaz (something that contradicts the claim that Muslims were not using the Mosque).
8. 1984: Though Hindus had since long been interested in the reclamation of the site and restoration of the Temple, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad revived this demand more vocally and had resolved to build a Temple devoted to the infant Ram at the site.
9. 1985: Rajiv Gandhi government had passed a resolution to have the main locks of the Mosque opened for Hindus, the Allahabad High Court also ordered the same in 1989.
10. 1989: In November (prior to General Election), the VHP had obtained permission (from whom? - that is unclear) to perform Shilanyas ("stone laying ceremony") at the site. This had sparked Muslim unease and protests.
11. 1992: December 6 - the Babri Mosque was demolished, in which prominent leaders of the BJP, like L. K. Advani have been implicated to have played a provocative role by the Liberhan Commission instituted by the then Congress government.
12. There are claims that during excavation remnants suggesting existence of Jain or Buddhist architecture were also found. However, I do not know if these claims are verified, and that in which stratum of the soil were these remains found - that is what would eventually determine what was the first place of worship built at the disputed site.

As is the case with complicated problems, let me try to bring in an analogy, which I hope would simplify the considerations involved.

There are two neighbors - 'A' and 'B'. 'A' owns a board game, which is his major source of entertainment. 'B' is a much more powerful person, and for some reasons, snatches away the game kit from 'A'. Moreover, 'B' does not have much use for the game kit as he does not enjoy board games much. Whether 'A' had protested or not is not clearly known, though he would have, as can be thought of as natural with any kind of extortion. At the same time, the B-family erases the preexisting design on the board, and replaces it with one that would make it conducive to a set of rules different from the one by which the A-family plays. Significantly, they also remove a few squares from the board that are most vital to the A-family's set of rules of game-play. Now, 'B' 'bequeaths' the game kit to his son, who in turn bequeaths it to his son, and henceforth. Now, the game kit ends up with one of the descendants of 'B'. Just like 'B', 'b' also does not find that particular board game too interesting. Correspondingly, the contemporary of 'b' is 'a', who is a descendant of 'A'. All through the course of time, certain indeterminate (but perhaps, large) fraction of the descendants of 'A' very much want the game kit to be theirs, and are opposed to its possession by the B-family, which the A-family members feel is illegal. The reason protesting A-members cannot seek legal redress is because the B-family also happens to be the village head, who sits in judgment of all such disputes! Then, the village head changes. This time it is 'J'. Again, members of the A-family demand that the game kit be returned to them, but the new village head tells them that "as the incident of snatching away the game kit was too old, nothing could be done about it". Now, the new village head recognizes the A-family's need for entertainment and thus takes a view more sympathetic than had been taken by the B-family, and asks that the A-family be allowed to use certain section of the board, but still leaves its possession with the B-family, and in fact legitimatizes such possession of the board by B-family using a new provision of law. Moreover, the new judge does not allow restoration of board's original structure as otherwise the game kit would be rendered useless for the B-family, which would amount to injustice, because the new Judge deems the B-family to be the rightful owner. Then, again the judge changes to 'j' [please note here that 'j' follows most of the laws 'J' had defined and also does not recognize himself as truly distinct from 'J' by way of honoring the precedents set by 'J' and also by recognizing the records of ownership maintained by 'J'] . By now, the A-family becomes much more powerful than the B-family. Some of the A-family members forcibly insert the missing squares so that the board would become fully functional for the manner in which they want to play their game. However, 'j' intervenes, and has those squares removed. But 'j' also disallows the B-family from using the board, though its 'possession' remains with the B-family itself. Ultimately, 'j' allows A-family to use the entire board, but without allowing re-insertion of the squares nor allowing any kind of redrawing. Also, some of the A-family descendants want to make the board look more beautiful, of course which is denied by 'j'. Concurrently, the B-family was offered another board to design its game on, which was rejected by those members of the B-family that were deemed as the both the representatives of the B-family and also as 'owners' of the original board by both 'J' and 'j'. So one of these days, few of the A-family members completely erase the designs drawn by the B-family. The B-family vehemently protests this. This act by the A-family is seen widely as illegal, because the erasure of the design did not have the sanction of 'j'. Another reason it is critiqued is is because the B-family protests the act and sees it as bullying. Later, some sketchy evidence emerges that even before the board was owned by A-family, it was owned by the 'C'-family!

Well, I have laid the analogy above. Obviously, being an analogy, there are bound to be significant incongruities between it and the 'real' situation. Significant among them being:
1. In the analogy, the warring parties are well-recognized individuals with unambiguous property rights to begin with as far as the ownership of the game kit are concerned. Whereas, this is not the case with the disputed land. Though, it seems in 1936, the British 'invented' the ownership of the site by awarding it to the 'Waqf' board or in other words, awarding it to the Muslim community, thus granting a status of a syndicate
2. The emotional attachment aspect of both the communities towards their respective structures (whatever be its degree or justifiability) has been overlooked. But this because, I believe, justice should not be based on emotional attachment.
3. The motives of the A- and the B-families in wanting to hold on to the board have again not been figured. This is similar to the second point above, meaning, what one plans to do with what one possesses is not an index to whether that person is the 'rightful' owner or not.

I again encourage the reader to point out other significant departures in the analogy from the real thing.

Now, let us analyze the entire dispute over the game kit more closely. At the heart of the entire issue is one of 'ownership' - the idea that a board can be owned by a person or group of persons, who reserve the right of what could be done to that board, what could be done with that board, and most important, who else to allow or to disallow from using it, and what kind of uses to allow/disallow.

Let me start with a 'sub-analogy' (that is, an analogy within an analogy): Suppose, 1 steals a watch from 0, and then gives it to 2. Can we now consider 2 to be the rightful owner of the watch? Would we consider 0's demand legitimate that the watch be returned back to him?

I am guessing, most would answer that in 'no' and 'yes' respectively. The reason behind our answer would be that:

"To have the legitimate right to transfer the ownership of something one must own it in manner that is considered legitimate in the first place."
... [a.1]

But let us slightly complicate the sub-analogy above: what if 2, instead of keeping the watch for himself, transfers it to 3, who transfers it to 4, and who to 5. Would 0 still have the right to claim the watch as his own? Would 5 be considered the rightful owner of the watch?

I guess, many would still respond that the watch be rightly restored to 0, and that 5 cannot claim any ownership of the watch, because just like how transfer of watch from 1 to 2 would be not recognized as legitimate, that of 2 to 3, 3 to 4 and 4 to 5 would also not be recognized as legitimate. This leads us to yet another assertion:

"The illegitimacy of transfer of ownership is independent of the number of hands the property passes from 'under'. In other words, a series of transfers of ownership does not make legitimate the final transfer, if the first transfer of ownership was illegitimate (stealing, for instance)."
... [a.2]

So, using the above two points and applying them to the original analogy of game board, one would assume that 'b' never really was in its possession, as the first acquisition of the board itself was by an illegitimate method (extortion). This, because A had never willingly handed over the game board to B. So can we say that 'A' was the rightful owner of the game board, and by extension, so is 'a'? And as corollary, 'b' is not the rightful owner of the board?

It might be tempting to answer the above as 'yes' and 'yes', but let me try to explain the complications involved.

The answer in affirmative would depend on our assuming that the forceful acquisition of the board was illegitimate. The reason I say this amounts to an assumption and not some kind of verifiable, absolute truth is because, the said extortion seems illegitimate from the perspective of current code of ethics and the penal law we follow! And we cannot use the legal system of our times to impose the conclusions that follow on an entirely different system of justice (that must have existed when 'B' took away the board from 'A'). And it can also be safely assumed that the system of justice that prevailed when 'B' took away the board from 'A' did not find the act illegitimate, otherwise the ownership of the game board would have been restored to the original owner 'A'. Some might point out that the justice system back then must have not existed, or that it was undemocratic, barbaric, etc. But while trying to assess whether the transfer of ownership by 'B' to his son 'b' was illegitimate or not, we need to prove that the method by which 'B' had acquired it from 'A' was illegitimate exactly at the time when it was being acquired! Let me veer off into another small example. Let us assume there was a time when spitting on the roads was not illegal, and then a few years later when spitting was made punishable someone brings to a court's notice a video clip of a person spitting on road. Would we then apply the current set of rule to an act (and punish the spitting person) when different set of rules had existed, and under which spitting was not illegal? I guess, most would say that the spitting person cannot be punished. So, applying similar logic, if the system that existed during the extortion of game board did not find such acquisition illegal, then all the subsequent transfers that led 'b' to ultimately come in possession of the game board would also be legal. So, I submit that:

"The legitimacy or illegitimacy of an act are determined by the code of ethics and law that had prevailed and to which the concerned parties ('aggressor' and 'victim') were subjected. And the said legitimacy versus illegitimacy cannot be determined retrospectively using the current system of law and ethics."
... [b.1]

Now let me bring in another complicating factor. If someday using points a.1 and a.2, Red Indians in the USA appeal to the people of other ethnicities to leave their continents as they were the rightful owner of everything that existed in there and that each and every instance of acquisition of any kind of property was forceful and thus illegitimate, and so were the subsequent transfers, what would our response be? Would we be able to 'do justice' to their demand? I guess, most would be in an ethical dilemma at this question. What would justify the retention of status quo, that is, keeping the property with current owners and thus rejecting the claim of the Red Indians? [Here, I am not getting into distracting details like whether 'pure breed' Red Indians still exist or not; the question is purely hypothetical]. What would again prevent us from transferring back all the property rights to the Red Indians would partly be the reason b.1, but apart from that the fact that on analysis of many such historical cases of acquisition, it seems that the aggressor becomes the rightful owner of something if the original owner stops complaining or is put in such position by the aggressor that the victim cannot complain (say, by actually killing or threatening to harm). From citing of these instances, one could conclude that:

"If acquisition of a property is forceful, and if the new ownership is maintained for long enough so that the original owner is in no position to complain/protest or stops complaining/protesting, then even most current systems of law and ethics recognize the aggressor as the rightful owner and the original owner is thought to have been validly dispossessed of his property."
... [b.2]

Though, b.2 seems barbaric and quite at odds with our current world view, the fact is, for practical concerns, we are forced to take that position. And no, I won't even go into the perhaps-by-now-debunked 'Aryan invasion theory' and how all the 'Aryans' - whoever they may be - and the exhortation that they leave the Indian subcontinent to the native people - whoever they may be! ;) So, from the above two arguments (b.1 and b.2) it seems that the game board could be entirely turned over to the B-family. Please note that though there are exactly two reasons each to restore the board to A-family or alternatively, to maintain the status quo by entirely transferring the ownership to B-family, the b-points (that is, those that support B-family's ownership) supersede the a-points in their applicability. So, we can conclude here that B-family should be the rightful owner of the game board, provided it could be proved that B-family had completely decimated the A-family or had threatened the A-family sufficiently into conceding its ownership. But that is something that as of now remains indeterminate and the decision in that regard would depend on the evidence of such complaints/protests provided by the A-family.

But, but, but... every time the system of ethics and justice changes (which would usually happen with the change in the ruler), it automatically takes it upon itself to make null and void all the previously established norms of ownership and its transfer. This also enables the new regime to set new norms of ownership and also allows it to nullify the existing ownerships. It is precisely this mechanism that had allowed the justice system that had existed at the time when 'B' had forcefully acquired the game board from 'A' to do so. In simple words, the moment 'B'-family started applying its justice system (by virtue of being the village head). It had assumed the power to dissolve the previous norms of ownership and also the specific instances of ownership (e.g., the A-family's ownership of the board). Because had it not nullified the preexisting norm as well as the status of ownership, it would have never allowed 'B' to take ownership of the board. It is not difficult to see that the guiding philosophy of that justice system was sadism - of gaining pleasure through troubling the A-family and asserting B-family's supremacy over the A-family. Whether this goal was noble or ignoble or moral or otherwise is not the concern. But that the new justice system started reevaluating the individual instances of ownership based on its own goals and the ideals it envisaged.

"Each time a new system of justice and ethics takes over, going by the historical precedents, it has the right to consider null and void all existing claims of ownership. Moreover, the new system will try to take decisions based on its fundamental philosophy and the goals the regime it serves seeks to achieve."
... [c.1]

Above point c.1 sounds contradictory to b.2, but there is a subtle difference. b.2 says that we cannot call some act illegitimate using current standards if at the time of commission of that act it was not recognized as illegitimate. Whereas, c.1 legitimatizes the rights of a new justice system to consider null and void all instances of preexisting ownership, irrespective of whether those instances of ownership were considered legitimate or not. In fact, it is the same logic that had also allowed 'J' to further legitimatize B-family's ownership of the board in face of continual protests by the A-family and its attempts to take back the possession of the board.

"Same considerations would apply to the struggle of ownership between the C-family and the A-family. Original and rightful owner of the board could be considered to be the C-family (instead of the A- or the B-family) if it could be proved that they had also continuously protested the forceful taking over of the board by A-family just like A-family (seemingly) had protested such taking over by the B-family."
... [C.2]

Here, one more thing that needs to be considered is that by virtue of the fact that 'j' is a descendant of 'J', and in fact considers his own justice system and that of 'J' to be one continuum, it also gives 'j' the power to review and overturn the decisions taken by 'J'.

A small note: I had done all the above analysis, and drafted most of it independently using my understanding of ethics, law, concepts of ownership, human behavior and history. However a few days earlier, I had come across the concept of 'adverse possession' (click). Its concept is very similar to the point b.2 above. Wikipedia defines the concept as:

"Adverse possession is a process by which premises can change ownership. It is a common law concept concerning the title to real property (land and the fixed structures built upon it). By adverse possession, title to another's real property can be acquired without compensation, by holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owner's rights for a specified period."

The same Wikipedia article further gives the minimum criteria that must be fulfilled for the disseisor (the aggressor who seeks to supplant the original claim to ownership) to become the new rightful owner:

  1. Actual possession of the property - The disseisor must 'use' the new property.
  2. Open and notorious use of the property - Use of the property must not be covert, and the original owner must be aware of such use by the disseisor.
  3. Exclusive use of the property - The disseisor must exclude others (including the original owner) from using the property. This would be seen as the disseisor claiming ownership of the property.
  4. Hostile or adverse use of the property - The disseisor has to occupy and use the property in a manner that is protested or disapproved of by the original owner.
  5. Continuous use of the property - The disseisor must use the property continuously from the time of taking over its possession to the point in time when the matter is brought under consideration.

Though, the Wikipedia does not mention it in the list of minimum criteria, it talks of two similar premises, on which the concept of adverse possession is based - the doctrine of laches (that the original owner, if not making claim to his adversely possessed property in timely manner is seen to have lost the claim) and statute of limitations (the time within which a crime has to be reported, otherwise the court would not take it up for hearing).

I have no idea of the sections of property acts in India that deal with adverse possession, and it also needs to be pointed out that the Wikipedia article is largely based on the US justice system, and the provisions there could be somewhat different. Moreover, I read that this provision that is seen to be sympathetic towards a hostile trespassers and unjust to the original owners is falling out of favor. The only reason I had brought up this concept was because it adds another angle to the legal aspects of the problem.

So, now applying all the above conclusions that were drawn from above premises, analogies and examples to the situation at hand, i.e., the Ayodhya dispute, we can conclude that what needs to be done would be largely based on the discretion of the present Indian Judiciary, because based on precedents set, it has the right to consider null and void all the titles of ownership that had existed before its establishment. Moreover, it is also within its power to review the decision by the British government of recognizing the ownership of the 'UP Waqf Board', more specifically whether such recognition falls in line with the founding principles of the Indian Constitution. Also inadvertently, the Indian Judiciary would be passing a judgment on what it thinks of the acts of Babar's general - Mir Banki - that is, whether it approves of the manner of acquisition of property by way of not reversing such possession despite having the right to do so. Please note that in the conclusions that I have derived, [a] series stands for arguments that support restoration of the disputed site to the (representatives of) Hindus, [b] series stands for complete restoration of the disputed site to the (representatives of) Muslims, and [c] series stands for arguments that lead to outcomes based largely on discretion.

I also need to point out here that, irrespective of whether the Court hands over the title deed of the disputed land to (representatives of) 'Hindus' or not, the act of Babri Mosque demolition would be deemed a crime as at the time of demolition, no one was authorized to demolish it.

Also, as I mentioned further what further complicates the matters is, though the majority of Indians view the Babri issue as a struggle between the Hindu and the Muslim communities, the fact is that the courts do not recognize an owner-entity called 'Hindu community' or 'Muslim community'.

Now, returning to Mr. Advani's assertion that matters of faith cannot be decided by courts of law, I would just like to ask, then what is all that precedes? Of course, I am no expert in law, nor of philosophy/ethics. But despite my limited knowledge and understanding, I have tried to resolve the larger issue into its individual attendant smaller issues. The claim from faith is one of the most horrible one. It seeks to spit in the face of one ability that separates humans from other animals - that of observing, questioning, thinking and answering. This intelligence is what separates humans from other species. An out-of-court settlement though seems a good solution as it might, in opinion of few, prevent lot of violence and blood shed, but in reality, it might be an unethical way of dealing with things also. Meaning, who would negotiate, and on what basis would we be able to determine who they represent? What if the 'UP Sunni Waqf Board' does not represent the views/aspirations of all/majority of Muslims? Or alternatively, is 'The Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas' truly representative of all Hindus' views/aspirations? Also, a legislative action would not be appropriate as the legislature is not trained nor qualified to weigh the various evidences available. So, whatever be the dispute, faith, which is antithetical to human capacity to reason cannot be invoked for resolution.


I hope that I have been able to highlight the major ethical considerations in my analysis. It is easy to confuse that I was trying to deal with the legal aspects of the problem, because law is very much based on ethics. However, I have studiously avoided dealing with legal issues, because I am not an expert, I do not have all the evidence at my disposal, and also because, in some areas law might not coincide with what is most pragmatic or what could be perceived as most ethical.

One of the most important problems I wanted to highlight was that as the human race has progressed ahead, somehow, perhaps because of lesser scarcity of resources for basic survival, frequency of armed conflicts has drastically come down. Some might wish to disagree, but it must be noted that this shift can be gauged from the fact in quite a few discussions, violence is seen as reprehensible and it is accepted that it should be used as the last resort. [I do not know how it used to be in the past, but it seems mass murderers were celebrated as 'conquerors' and 'successful' kings, etc. It also seems that in the past, high premium was laid on physical strength and the ability to inflict wounds and kill. But such people are not usually celebrated in the civil society]. What this shift in public opinion, which tilts towards universal human rights, has done is that violent means of acquiring property are outlawed and are severely criticized in the public. This has reduced the number of instances of such forceful acquisitions. But when we look back in history, such forceful acquisitions were considered quite legitimate, and in fact were even celebrated. So, when we try to determine the legitimacy of current ownerships that were at behest of such coercion, we are faced with an ethical dilemma. Can such properties that were acquired by the ancestors of current owners through force (illegally bu current standards) be considered legal/legitimate/ethical. This confusion arises, because one of the important caveats in application of both ethics and law is consistency, meaning that two similar/identical acts carried out in exactly same circumstances but involving different people at different time and place should be considered similarly/identically legal/legitimate/ethical or otherwise.

So, the question is: what point in time shall we set before which the forceful acquisition of any property that would have occurred should be considered legitimate and whatever would occur later than that would be considered illegitimate?


  1. I am not an expert at law. This analysis is an outcome of my crude understanding of various issues involved. Also, it was not keeping in view the technicalities of law and the need for evidence (e.g., whether a Temple devoted to Ram existed at the disputed site and whether what was demolished in 1992 was indeed a Mosque going by the legal definition of a Mosque), but rather my crude understanding of ethics, on which legal system of almost all democratic and liberal countries are based.
  2. Many have argued that the site should be taken over by the government (using the Constitutional provision equivalent to that of 'eminent domain') and used for larger good of the public. I very strongly opposed to this idea. Because, this view would then allow for sadistic elements in the society to dispossess others of their legitimately owned property simply by disputing its ownership fully knowing that others would urge the property's taking over by the Indian State. E.g., if I break the glasses of a pub at a disputed site, can then others urge that instead of trying to establish its genuine ownership using evidence available and the provisions of law, that the government take it over and convert it into a hospital for larger good of the society because nobody needs a pub anyway?

PS: A good article I had come across explaining the basic issues considered by the Allahabad High Court could be found here - The Ayodhya Anatomy (click) by The Telegraph (Calcutta).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why the Indian National Media appears Anti-Hindu

I had conceived the following post in response to a question posed by Bhagwad Jal Park in the comments section of his post - Quran Burning – A book is not a person (click).

I reproduce the pertinent portion of his question here:

"As far as the media goes, I'd like to dig a little deeper. If you say that they're biased (and I'm not sure one way or the other about this), why are they biased? Is it because (as a lot of right winger claim) there is a conspiracy between the government, media etc to put Hindus down, or is it because of sheer incompetence, or because people don't want to hear anything else, or some other reason?"

It has been my policy to carry forward these kind of discussions in my other blog - 'Freewheeling Discussions (Personal)', but as this was something I was anyway planning to blog on and also because understanding what follows would not require knowing a background context, I decide to post this here as an independent blog post.


Despite being an atheist, being not at all a fan of the fuzzy concept of 'Hindutva', not finding anything wrong with Sonia Gandhi's being born in Italy, and nor being the one who would want India to 'rule the world' as a superpower, I have always felt that the national media appears to be partial towards what it terms the 'minorities' (which largely includes the Muslims, the Christians and the 'lower' castes) and has an anti-BJP bent. The latter, some people perceive as their being anti-Hindu. This partiality towards Muslims comes in form of making them look victimized more than they would otherwise be, and also trying to cover up, in the process, their harms done to the Hindus. But I have realized that this perception of media bias is seen as "right wing paranoia" by those who seem to share other beliefs (or non-beliefs) with me - atheism, finding Hindutva silly, etc. A fine specimen of use of this nomenclature could be found here - The Spectacular Achievements of Right Wing Propaganda......... (click).

Though since long I have found a palpable bias in the national media (in favor of minorities, which might make it look like anti-Hindu, but need not really be that way), I have not been able to conclude a firm driving force behind such bias.

I will lay down mere speculations for what could be the reasons (and I am sure that they would sound as silly to many as what "lot of other right-wingers say", but then anyway let me put across my points) [whatever points I make here are applicable largely to the national media, and not necessarily the local media, which have their own individual biases depending what incentives they have and their political affiliations; it should not come as a surprise that media has so much power to influence that many south Indian news channels are 'openly' owned by politicians]:

1. The essential struggle for control over media is not so much between the Hindus and other communities, but is between the Nehru-Gandhi family v/s politicians from the Congress and other parties. So, you will see that even minor good things that the two prominent members of this family do, would be highlighted, whereas any of their failures would be attributed to the respective ministries. Hence, primarily the prominent media houses work against the rivals of the Nehru Gandhi family, be it from the Congress party or some other.


a. Sonia Gandhi has never been interviewed on occasion of any Maoist attack or other collective failures of the government (e.g., rising food prices), but her interview had been broadcast with Barkha Dutt even when the Women's reservation bill was just passed in the Rajya Sabha [it is yet to be passed as a law, so what was the celebration about?].

b. The media house that has done the greatest damage to the repute of rivals of the NG-family has as editor, Tarun Tejpal, who had this - Mrs Gandhi And Her Extra God (click) - to say. Apart from an element of fawning, there is clear indication of desire to bring in religion in matters of administration, when one would assume that politics and winning election are not about such silly things as what the attributes of certain deities are.

c. The manner in which Rahul Gandhi's trip to Mumbai in wake of Shiv Sena threat to Shahrukh Khan was covered by national news channels. One of the motives could be cheap sensationalism, but I have not noticed any other politician getting that kind of coverage when the fact is many prominent politicians keep on moving in and out of Mumbai. Even his symbolism/gimmickry (you choose) of withdrawing money from an ATM was covered with much enthusiasm. Contrast that with Narendra Modi, who, in Pune (a city in Maharashtra, largely filled with Maharashtrians) had asked as to why despite having a Maharashtrian president would the people of Maharashtra want a Maharashtrian prime minister. That was a more daring and sensible thing to say than what Rahul Gandhi had done, but hardly any TV network had covered the latter. The news had perhaps appeared in the Indian Express, but I am unable to find the link. Will update when I am able to find it.

d. The manner in which all the major news channels had floated around the news that the SIT had 'summoned' Narendra Modi in context of March 21. And then when he did not turn up at the SIT office on that day (as it was a Sunday and as basically no such summon had been issued) he was trounced by the news channels accusing him of being arrogant enough to not respect the 'summons' of a body instituted by the SC. Later it was revealed that the SIT, being a non-judicial body, did not even have the authority to issue 'summons' (which would have to be issued under some Criminal Procedures Code - CrPC, I don't remember the exact section, perhaps, 62). My understanding is that firstly no such date was determined, yet the TV crew outside the Gandhinagar SIT office had shouted into their mics that Modi had defied the SC and some had gone on to say that he was afraid, as he was guilty. And secondly it appears that, later he had been interrogated as (an expert) witness as he was the CM at the time of riots, and not as an accused - an impression which the media had given. I have two options to choose from to explain this kind of lapse by all major news channels - either it was sheer carelessness or that it was a concerted attempt to malign Modi. Considering the fact that major news channels (NDTV 24x7, TimesNOW, News X, CNN-IBN) had done the same, it is difficult that all of them would have been careless at the same time over exactly the same issue. So, to me the second option seems lot more plausible.

2. Funding from several sources. This might sound the most laughable, but again it is a mere speculation and much weaker than the above explanation. The reason I think so, is because there are innumerable news channels in India, and unlike entertainment channels which can cater to widely disparate kinds of tastes by having completely different programming, news channels show essentially the same news. So, my belief is the 'number of eye balls' must be getting significantly divided among all the news channels. In light of this fact, how attractive do the advertisers find news channels? I again assume, not much. In face of which what sustains the news channels? I am not a finances person, but I had learned that NDTV had posted losses in more than one financial quarters. Yet, the cosmetic quality of their presentation has not significantly deteriorated. I posit that keeping employed cameramen, reporters, drivers, news anchors, paying guests for appearances, and all of this in multiple cities and towns must be too expensive an affair. Other than advertising, what incentive do the owners have to keep the channels running? How do they get monetarily compensated? So, perhaps they get foreign funding to insert PoV and to distort news. Of course, this funding could be, but need not be foreign, it could come from several sources within India too. Some could be political parties, movie celebrities, industrialists, etc.

Example: Mass media: masses of money? (click)

3. Creating sensationalism. One thing the media does is to present story in a very partisan manner. It need not be because of some kind of institutional bias, but simply to make the stories sensationalist. Owing to competition, it becomes imperative that the patrons are hooked to the news. This requires that in any story, an easy-to-recognize 'good' and 'evil' are presented so that people are not bogged down by dry facts. Moreover, the advantage of this approach is that most people would like to identify with the 'good' in the story, demonizing the 'bad' in the process. It has to be remembered that news media, apart from competing with each other are also competing with entertainment channels, FM radio, networking sites, etc. If the patrons do not feel an emotional connect with the story, they would stop following news, which would further harm them financially. So by meddling with facts, the media manage to create a pure evil v/s good aspects in their story.


a. So many inconsistencies in news reporting of "two lady doctors killing a rape victim's baby in Raigad"! (click) - a post from my blog dissecting how it is possible to dish out news shoddily and yet make majority of people fall for it (you would be amazed on counting the number of comments and reading their content on the ToI article).

b. These are not Diwali Firecrackers, please! (click) - another post from my blog, where I point out that important issues like success of Pokhran tests were discussed like gossip magazines would, without providing a shred of evidence. My suspicion is, again only to create sensationalism. To gain further clarity on the issue, please do read my responses to Stupidosaur.

c. The Nirupama Pathak case. Even before the autopsy results were announced, her mother had been implicated and made a villain in the entire saga by the media. One of the police officers of Koderma district was shown giving impressive interviews. Along with all this, her boyfriend, who had got her pregnant (of course, guessing that it was not a case of rape but consensual sex) was being shown as some kind of hero. Then, suddenly it was revealed next day that her boyfriend had also been questioned as a suspect. A few days later the news came that the pillow cover (on which saliva stains would remain as it was a suspected case of smothering) and bedsheets had not been inspected. Later it was revealed that the AIIMS, Delhi faculty had felt that the autopsy had been conducted in a very shoddy fashion. Contrast this with the fact that immediately in the aftermath of Nirupama's death, her friends and teacher had been interviewed, who had made stupid statements to the tune of "she was a strong girl, she could not have committed suicide (so must have been killed by the parents - a very grave insinuation)". I don't remember the exact details, but is seems the media had bungled up big-time. So, now there are no follow up news to the best of my knowledge on this. But the reputation of an entire family was tarnished. It was definitely unprofessional and shoddy. There might have not been a larger ulterior motive, but the attempt to spice up the story ("how could parents kill the daughter"-kind) was definitely there despite the lack of evidence to conclude the same.

4. A reason speculated (click) by Atanu Dey:

"If a journalist writing in English wants to be quoted by foreign publications, then he or she has to appeal to the biases of the foreigners and reinforce their prejudices. Otherwise, the foreign press would not touch it. The more shrill a journalist is in denouncing anything that remotely hints at Indian ethos, culture, or pride, the more likely he or she is to get invited to give talks at US universities and other goodies. The term for this phenomenon is "being a house nigger.""

Of course, I might be questioned as to "how I would be sure that the foreign media would want to hear bad things about India?", but remember, this is just one of the speculated reasons for the manner in which some of the journalists behave.

But till now I have, at best, only demonstrated that there the media resorts to sensationalism, unethical behavior and perhaps institutional bias. But I have yet not addressed why it might seem anti-Hindu.

As I pointed out in point 1 above, it caters to the Nehru-Gandhi family, for the simple reason that it has the deepest pockets of all the political entities with pan-India presence. Meaning, even some of the other South Indian politicians might also have as much or deeper pockets, but at least as of now they do not have any need to have opinion modified at a national level.

So, why would the Congress want to make seem Hindus bad?

I think the Congress does not have any incentive for making Hindus look bad. This looking bad of Hindus is merely incidental. For this the demographics and the resulting constituencies of India are to be considered. Muslims, it is said, tend to vote en bloc. To ensure this they have to be constantly fed with the idea that they are being persecuted and discriminated against (this is partly true also that certain fraction of Hindus discriminate against them, and so do people from other religions, but this discrimination is not Muslim-specific, but an outcome of bigotry that birth-related affiliations result in). But to ensure that they vote en bloc for the Congress and not some other party, the only viable option to vote for has to be demonized. That viable option happens to be the BJP. But how can a BJP government directly go and harm the Muslims? So, it has to be shown as shielding those wanting to hurt Muslims. Of course, in terms of endearing itself to the Muslim constituency, the BJP had hurt its prospects by associating with or perhaps even bringing up the Ram Temple-issue. So, in the process it also needs to be shown there exist sizable number of Hindus who are "out there to get the Muslims". This is what incidentally (and not as a matter of primary intention) makes the Hindus look 'bad'. It should not be surprising then that all the major communalist riots seem to be happening only in the BJP-ruled states (Gujarat & Kandhamal), but none seem to be happening in non-BJP ruled states (Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, Miraj in Maharashtra). But obviously, one has to also create an impression that the BJP & some affiliated bodies, like the RSS and the VHP actively support this violence. How can this impression be created? By projecting riots between Hindus and some other community to be selective persecution of the 'minority'. This impression can again be only created by largely omitting the violence committed against the Hindus. This, I believe, is the reason that the deaths of around 200 Hindus that had occurred in post-Godhra riots in Gujarat are hardly given any coverage. Because, if once that part is also given the prominence it deserves, then people will start questioning the theory that "the BJP and Narendra Modi had organized a pogrom against Muslims", for surely, 200 Hindus would not be killed by the people who also killed Muslims.

Now, apply the same approach with regard to perceived persecution of other minorities, and the impression we are bound to get is one of BJP and associated organizations being anti-Muslim and anti-'lower caste'.

But why does the Congress instead not try to appeal to all the Hindus, instead of trying to appeal to the minorities? After all the Hindus are the 80% of the population!

Traditionally, the Congress has been perceived to be secular/pro-Muslim, and they cannot change that image overnight. Because it would be risky to lose 20% of 'sure-shot' voter share [because Muslims tend to vote en bloc]. But on the other hand, Hindus are fragmented. To make them rally around one party as one constituency is very difficult. The rivalries between various castes and sub-castes of the Hindu community are so deep that they are almost as strong as the Hindu-Muslim rivalry. The BJP had, perhaps, with some success been able to unite the Hindu constituency and that is why it came to power earlier (or perhaps, Indians could also have been frustrated with the Congress rule). Simply because Congress' formula is tried and tested, they are reluctant to try new tactics. But in the 1990's the BJP were the underdogs, they had nothing to lose by trying to unite the Hindus into one single constituency, and somehow they partly succeeded (and could form the government). Because had they tried the same Congress formula of cozying up to the 'minorities', then why would the voter instead not vote for the 'original' (Congress), instead!

Of course, my entire analysis above is like the 'Strings theory' - it might make intuitive sense, but I have no way to prove it empirically/statistically. But I continue to go by it simply, because no other single hypotheses in isolation can explain the aberrant behavior of the media in the instances I cited above.


To summarize: I hope I have been able to accomplish/show the following (not necessarily to everyone's conviction):

1. Cite instances of unprofessional/biased conduct by the media.

2. Enumerate and somewhat explain the motives and incentives behind the same.

3. That the Congress benefits from current anti-BJP bent of the media (and hence, perhaps provides the much needed incentive for the media to remain thus).

4. In the process of being anti-BJP, the media ends up demonizing Hindus in the eyes of the minorities and also many Hindus themselves.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Please Vote in this survey!

Propriety of governmental interventions
What was your position BEFORE reading the following options? Consider the situations to be hypothetically true irrespective of what actually happened.
OPPOSITION to government's attempts to stop burning of Quran in the US; OPPOSITION to government's attempts to stop wearing Burqa in France
OPPOSITION to government's attempts to stop burning of Quran in the US; SUPPORT for government's attempts to stop wearing Burqa in France
SUPPORT for government's attempts to stop burning of Quran in the US; OPPOSITION to government's attempts to stop wearing Burqa in France
SUPPORT for government's attempts to stop burning of Quran in the US; SUPPORT for government's attempts to stop wearing Burqa in France

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blog updates

As few readers might notice, I have completely changed the template of this blog. I guess, I was quite obsessed with two sidebar-layout. It was making the blog look too cluttered, and a few readers had also complained of the sidebars' content being distractive.

So finally, I have overcome that obsession. This theme & layout are simpler & hopefully more pleasing to the eye. Your frank feedback is certainly welcome. :)

But most important announcement - I have updated my blog roll. I had to work very hard towards it. I have not merely enlisted the blogs, but also tried to point out what I like about certain blogs and bloggers. Also, I have tagged each blog with broad genres that the posts tend to fit in. Additionally, for almost all blogs I have added two posts that I had remembered as having impressed me the most while drafting the blog roll.

Apart from serving as a guide to readers who want to explore new blogs, through this blog roll I want to convey my heart felt thanks to the enlisted bloggers for enriching my life, giving me new things to think about or feel.

I have tried in the past, but I do not know if I could convey this clearly enough. The people I have mentioned make me think of this World as a better place to live in, and thus, this life more worthy of living.

Those who can believe my sincerity behind saying all this, and can understand what it means for a cynic like me, will appreciate that it is one of the highest compliments I can pay. :)

You can go through the blog roll by clicking on 'Blog roll' button below the header, or alternatively by clicking here. :)

If you feel like commenting on the blog roll, kindly do so on the blog roll page itself.

Thank you!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Song Parody: 1 - Duniya mein logon ko

This is after real long that I am parodizing an entire Hindi song. Hope, you enjoy!


To be sung to the tune of 'Duniya mein logon ko'. Original lyrics are in green, and parodied ones are in orange. Also, lyrics have been phonetically rendered in Roman script for those browsers that might not render the Devanagari script.

Watch on YouTube (click)

RD: | K'Ma D:

बीरा... | छीना...
टरा टरा टरा, परा परा परा | बड़ा बड़ा बड़ा, मारा मारा मारा
टराटराटराटरा तरारू | देश का pocket मारामारामारा मारुरुरु

दुनिया में, logon को | Commonwealth में, ऐसे तो
धोखा कभी हो जाता है | एक-आध खोखा* यूँही खो जाता है

आँखों ही, आँखों में | लाखों ही, लाखों में
यारों का दिल खो जाता है | प्यारों का bill pay हो जाता है

Asha: | Money-aa:

दुनिया में... | Commonwealth में...

RD: | K'Ma D:

दुनिया में... | Commonwealth में...

Asha: | Money-aa:

(नागिन सी मेरी चाल, रखना दिल का ख़याल | (Maoमाता का अड्डा बंगाल, रखती Maoists का ख़याल
मेरे दीवानों का, हो जाता है यह हाल) -2 | Media से कह के मैंने, उठवा दिया games का सवाल) -2

बीड़ा, बीड़ा, बड़ा बड़ा | चीरा, चीरा, फाड़ा, फाड़ा
टरा टरा टरा, तुरु तुरु तुरु, तुरु, तुरु तुरु तुरु तुरु रु | मारा मारा मारा, देश का pocket मारा मारा मारा, मारा मारा मारुरुरु

जागी मैं, सारी रैन | Games में, मैं हैरान
सारा जहां सो जाता है | पैसा कहाँ खो जाता है
आँखों ही, आँखों में | लाखों ही, लाखों में
यारों का दिल खो जाता है | मेरा कुछ नहीं हो पाता है

R D: | K'Ma D:

(कहती है यह नज़र, कब क्या हो क्या खबर | (Official तो है figure, पर अन्दर की उन्हें क्या खबर
दुनिया में चंद लोग, होते हैं जादूगर) -2 | Money-aa ma'am को ठगकर, हूँ तो मैं बेफिक़र) -2

बीड़ा, बीड़ा, बड़ा बड़ा | चीरा, चीरा, फाड़ा, फाड़ा
टरा टरा टरा, तुरु तुरु तुरु, तुरु, तुरु तुरु तुरु तुरु रु | मारा मारा मारा, देश का pocket मारा मारा मारा, मारा मारा मारुरुरु

Asha: | Money-aa:

सुनिए जी, उन पे भी | भ्रष्ट-एष जी, मुझ को तो
जादू कभी हो जाता है | आप पे भी शक हो जाता है
आँखों ही, आँखों में | लाखों ही, लाखों में
यारों का दिल खो जाता है | मेरा कुछ नहीं हो पाता है

R D: | K'Ma D:

(पिंजरे में चलके आप, आ जाता है शिकार | (ऐसा न कहिये आप, करूंगा आप को भी मालामाल

Asha: | Money-aa:

कातिल पे भी कभी, आ जाता है प्यार) -2 | चमचे भी करते कभी, हैं चालाकी की मजाल) -2

बीड़ा, बीड़ा, बड़ा बड़ा | चीरा, चीरा, फाड़ा, फाड़ा
टरा टरा टरा, तुरु तुरु तुरु, तुरु, तुरु तुरु तुरु तुरु रु | मारा मारा मारा, देश का pocket मारा मारा मारा, मारा मारा मारुरुरु

बातों ही, बातों में | अकेले में, खाने से
होना है जो हो हाता है | चमचा Tharoored हो जाता है
आँखों ही, आँखों में | देखते ही, देखते में
यारों का दिल खो जाता है | CBI पीछे पड जाता है *wink* *wink*

Asha: | Money-aa:

दुनिया में... | Commonwealth में...


RD: | K'Ma D:

beeraa... | Chheena...
tara tara taraa, para para para | badaa badaa badaa, maara maara maara
taraataraataraatara taraaru | desh ka pocket maaramaaramaara maarururu

duniya mein, logon ko | Commonwealth mein, aise toh
dhokha kabhi ho jaata hai | Ek-aadh khokha yunhi kho jaata hai

aankhon hi, aankhon mein | laakhon hi, laakhon mein
yaaron ka dil kho jaata hai | Pyaaron ka bill pay ho jaata hai

Ashaa: | Money-aa:

duniya mein ... | Commonwealth mein...

RD: | K'Ma D:

duniya mein ... | Commonwealth mein...

Asha: | Money-aa:

(naagin si meri chaal, rakhana dil ka khayaal | (MaoMaata ka adda Bangal, rakhati Maoists ka khayaal
mere deevaanon kaa, ho jaata hai ye haal) -2 | Media se kah ke maine, uthawa diya games ka sawaal) -2

beedaa, beedaa, baayaraa, baayara | cheera, cheera, phaada, phaada
taraatara taraa, turu turu turu, turu turu turu turu turu ru | maara maara maara, desh ka pocket maara maara maara, maara maara maarururu

jaagi main, saari rain | Games mein, main hairaan
saara jahaan so jata hai | paisa kahaan kho jaata hai
aankhon hee, aankhon mein | laakhon hi, laakhon mein
yaaron ka dil kho jaata hai | mera kucch nahin ho paata hai

R D: | K'Ma D:

(kahati hai ye nazar, kab kya ho kya khabar] | (Official toh hai figure, par andar ki unhein kya khabar

duniya mein chand log, hote hain jaadugar) -2 | Money-aa ma'am ko thugkar, hoon toh main befiqar) -2
beedaa, beedaa, baayaraa, baayara | cheera, cheera, phaada, phaada
taraatara taraa, turu turu turu, turu turu turu turu turu ru | maara maara maara, desh ka pocket maara maara maara, maara maara maarururu

Asha: | Money-aa:

suniye jee, un pe bhi | Bhrasthesh ji, mujh ko toh
jaadu kabhi ho jaata hai | aap pe bhi shaq ho jaata hai
aankhon hee, aankhon mein | laakhon hi, laakhon mein
yaaron ka dil kho jaata hai | mera kuchh nahin ho paat hai

R D: | K'Ma D:

(pinjare mein chalake aap, a jaata hai shikaar] | (aisa na kahiye aap, karoonga aap ko bhi maalamaal

Asha: | Money-aa:

qaatil pe bhi kabhee, a jaata hai yoon pyaar) -2 | chamche bhi karate kabhi, hain chaalaki ki majaal) -2

beedaa, beedaa, baayaraa, baayara] | cheera, cheera, phaada, phaada
taraatara taraa, turu turu turu, turu turu turu turu turu ru | maara maara maara, desh ka pocket maara maara maara, maara maara maarururu

baaton hi, baaton mein] | akele mein, khaane se
hona hai jo ho jaata hai] | chamchaa Tharoored ho jaata hai
aankhon hee, aankhon mein] | Dekhte hi, dekhte mein
yaaron ka dil kho jaata hai] | CBI peeche pad jaata hai *wink* *wink*

Asha: | Money-aa:

duniya mein ... | Commonwealth mein...

*खोखा = Rs. 1 crore in colloquial Hindi.


Lyrics courtesy: Bollywood hungama (click)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ethics in Tangents: Part 2 - Ethicality and False sense of Obligation of Producing Children

What follows is modified and significantly expanded from one of my (long) tweets, but it contains doubts/conjectures that I have had for a long time, and which I have articulated at various places in different words.

How ethical is the decision to have a child? If it sounds weird, by it, I mean, do prospective parents really have a right to bring children to life, without seeking (the prospective children's) permission? Perhaps the elaboration sounds even weirder, but given that a hitherto unborn person cannot 'regret' not being born, but an alive person - depending on how life treats him/her - could end up very unhappy and in pain, it seems that every time parents decide to have a child, they are risking pain and unhappiness to the child despite having the option of not taking such risk. What to me makes this very tricky is that the impact of a decision taken by two (or more, in case of Indian families) people affects a totally different person!

To give an analogy:

If you are given a choice to press or not press a button, which would totally randomly give either a chocolate or a pin prick to someone else who is sound asleep (and is thus, neither experiencing pain nor pleasure), what would you do?

For me, the ethical choice would be to not press the button. It might be argued that "but then there is also a chance that the person would get the chocolate"! But remember, putting up that argument still entails taking a decision on someone else's behalf whose disposition we just do not know! How do we know such a person would prefer chocolate to avoidance of a pin prick? However, if I do not press the button, the person remains asleep, and would never regret not being able to get the chocolate he/she could have got on the pressing of button. The counterargument could be that, that by not pressing the button we are depriving the person of a chance to get a chocolate, which would also be a decision in itself. True, it would be, but usually any sort of inaction is unethical when an action is called for. E.g., if a person walking by your side suddenly feels giddy and extends his/her hand towards you (indicating a demand for assistance), then taking an action (helping) would seem more ethical than inaction (not helping). But imagine, that person is not feeling giddy. In that case, action is not called for, and your not helping (obviously) would not be unethical. I hope, I could explain how this example would apply to depriving a person of a chocolate that he is not needing/desiring by virtue of being asleep. [Of course, it needs to be assumed that he/she will remain sound asleep forever, and not complain after 'waking up'!] One of the important things I wanted to highlight alongside the original question was:

Most decisions in life have certain risk involved of their turning out wrong, but usually they directly impact the one taking that decision, and not someone else.

I would also like to point out here that dying is not the same as not taking birth. By way of living a life, we become afraid of death and also get, what I call, 'addicted' to life. E.g., to have never had a cell phone is not the same as being robbed off of one's cell phone. So, keeping this in mind, is it possible to imagine what it would be like to never have been born? If I ask you: "Would you have liked it better to never have been born?", In all honesty, I cannot answer that question. And if one is able to visualize the situation, and especially respond to it in negative, then, they are severely deluding themselves by (unknowingly) invoking the concept of 'soul'. But one thing I am certain of is: without taking birth I would have definitely never regretted not taking birth, because 'regret' is a feeling that is felt by a conscious mind, which in turn is a function of the brain and that certainly requires one to be alive in the conventional sense of the term! Now, try to answer another similar question: would you regret dying after you die? Again, if one is able to answer such a question, and especially so in affirmative, then their mind is leading them astray. But despite admitting that both the situations cannot be visualized, I do feel a tinge of fear at the prospects of not being born and of dying. This, we can call the 'fear of not existing', which I shall shorten to FNE in what follows (perhaps it contributes to our survival instinct as individuals). But again remember, to experience this fear one needs to be alive! Unborn and dead people are not going to feel it! Perhaps, the logic I am trying to illustrate is getting too circular. And perhaps, it is for the same reason we feel grateful to our parents for bringing us to life (and of course, for extending nurture despite the effort and pain it entails), because whenever we think of our parents' decision, our analysis is tinged with FNE. People feel suicidal if the pain or the effort they experience in process of living overwhelms their FNE.

That was all simply about ethicality (or lack thereof) of decision to have a child. Now, if you could understand my questions and arguments above, think of them at a larger scale - would it have been 'bad' had the human species never come into existence? Would it be 'bad' if the human species gets extinct? Respectively, "to who it would have been bad?" and "to who it would be bad?" Can the same be said about the existence of the Earth and the Universe? So, is the fact that the Universe exists something special when our FNE is factored in? Just like how we feel grateful to our parents for giving us birth because our thoughts are tinged with FNE, we feel a sense of gratefulness for the existence of our Universe (which had enabled 'our' existence in the first place). But who do we feel that gratefulness towards? God, of course! But it is important to note here that, not everyone believes that God exists. Also, it is to be noted that it is humanization of the Universe we indulge in each time we think that whatever exists needs to be created from something, and that thus it needs a creator. Of course, this assumption is unfounded!

But getting to the other arm of the analogy, death, we feel FNE with regard to the humanity as well as towards the Earth. As an example, try to examine your feelings if I say, "the Earth would be hit by a large asteroid 150 years from now, and all life would be destroyed by it". I guess, most people would feel a sense of dread. Now, make a simple calculation. Assuming, each of your successive progeny become parents at the age of 35; it means, it would be your fourth & fifth generations that would face the wrath of the asteroid. And honestly, who cares about one's great grandparents, for instance? Meaning, how many of us feel emotionally attached to our great grandparents and great great grandparents (that is four and five generation 'before' us for you). But yet, we feel a sense of dread in response to such prophecies, where those getting affected would be four or five generations removed from us. There are two possible reasons for that: one, that we cannot visualize not existing, and we always subconsciously assess things as if they would affect us (thus insinuating a soul-like eternal existence in the process); and two, that perhaps we feel for humanity and Earth, what we feel for our 'self'. Meaning, I am humanity, and I am Earth (okay, that sounds funny, but I cannot explain it better). And it is for this reason that we invest so much in future to try to save our planet from destruction, when perhaps the fact is that such 'destruction' would not affect us, nor some of the generations that immediately follow us.

In my analysis, I have obviously not considered the fact that it is not possible to consult unborn children, nor the fact that if everyone would start thinking like me, the human species could get extinct! As you might appreciate, those two concerns do not figure in the equation of ethics here. So if you are confused whether to marry or not, and then, whether to have a child or not, I hope I have been able to assure that if by your not producing children, you fear that you might be contributing to the extinction of the human species, then your fear is unfounded! ;)

I believe with this post I have crudely dealt with:

1. The ethicality of decision to have a child.
2. Why we think there needs to be a creator for the Universe to exist.
3. Why we fear for damage to and/or extinction of the human species and the Earth.

Disclaimer: I am unmarried [and if the one reading this is a woman of my age who would be ready to marry me and put up with rants as above, then she can consider this as an advertisement! ;) ], and this doubt (doubt about ethicality of having a child) does not have much to do with my own life, but I cannot get the doubt out of my mind. Of course, what I eventually conclude would influence my wanting to have a child or not, but of course that would have to be in consultation with my then spouse.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Islamophobia is a Misnomer - a few Rebuttals

In my last post (click), I had quoted translations of a few verses from the Quran. A tweeter - Mr. Kashif Shahzada (click) who apparently is quite knowledgeable of the scripture had pointed out a few inconsistencies in its precepts across different chapters and a few within them and that individual verses must not be cherry-picked, but should be interpreted in context of what is conveyed in verses elsewhere. The significance of this is that, two of the (untoward) conclusions one might draw on reading the verses I had quoted were contradicted by other verses elsewhere in the Quran. In what follows, I quote the said verses, and also the contradictory verses from the Quran and Mr. Kashif's explanation/rebuttal, which I will try to paraphrase as faithfully as possible.

1. (From Chapter 3)
YUSUFALI: Let not the believers Take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution, that ye may Guard yourselves from them. But Allah cautions you (To remember) Himself; for the final goal is to Allah.
PICKTHAL: Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security. Allah biddeth you beware (only) of Himself. Unto Allah is the journeying.
SHAKIR: Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself; and to Allah is the eventual coming. [Verify: Sura 3:28]

This might make one think that Muslims are forbidden from helping or showing kindness to "Unbelievers". Mr. Kashif had pointed out this instruction applies only to those who are hostile towards and first attack the believers of Allah. In support he had referred me to the following two verses:

1.a (From Chapter 60)
YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! Take not my enemies and yours as friends (or protectors),- offering them (your) love, even though they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, and have (on the contrary) driven out the Prophet and yourselves (from your homes), (simply) because ye believe in Allah your Lord! If ye have come out to strive in My Way and to seek My Good Pleasure, (take them not as friends), holding secret converse of love (and friendship) with them: for I know full well all that ye conceal and all that ye reveal. And any of you that does this has strayed from the Straight Path.
PICKTHAL: O ye who believe! Choose not My enemy and your enemy for allies. Do ye give them friendship when they disbelieve in that truth which hath come unto you, driving out the messenger and you because ye believe in Allah, your Lord? If ye have come forth to strive in My way and seeking My good pleasure, (show them not friendship). Do ye show friendship unto them in secret, when I am Best Aware of what ye hide and what ye proclaim? And whosoever doeth it among you, he verily hath strayed from the right way.
SHAKIR: O you who believe! do not take My enemy and your enemy for friends: would you offer them love while they deny what has come to you of the truth, driving out the Messenger and yourselves because you believe in Allah, your Lord? If you go forth struggling hard in My path and seeking My pleasure, would you manifest love to them? And I know what you conceal and what you manifest; and whoever of you does this, he indeed has gone astray from the straight path. [Verify: Sura 60:1]

1.b (From Chapter 60)
YUSUFALI: Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.
PICKTHAL: Allah forbiddeth you only those who warred against you on account of religion and have driven you out from your homes and helped to drive you out, that ye make friends of them. Whosoever maketh friends of them - (All) such are wrong-doers.
SHAKIR: Allah only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account of (your) religion, and drove you forth from your homes and backed up (others) in your expulsion, that you make friends with them, and whoever makes friends with them, these are the unjust. [Verify: Sura 60:9]

2. (From Chapter 9)
YUSUFALI: But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
PICKTHAL: Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
SHAKIR: So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. [Verify: Sura 9:5]

This might make one believe that Muslims are supposed to kill idolators as soon as the time-period of the pact (the Pagans/idolators are supposed to make with Muslims at/near a Mosque to live in peace) ends. Mr. Kashif here, buttressing with the following sura, pointed out that again this instruction applied only to those Unbelievers who had taken the initiative to assault believers of Allah:

2.a (From Chapter 9)
YUSUFALI: Will ye not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger, and took the aggressive by being the first (to assault) you? Do ye fear them? Nay, it is Allah Whom ye should more justly fear, if ye believe!
PICKTHAL: Will ye not fight a folk who broke their solemn pledges, and purposed to drive out the messenger and did attack you first? What! Fear ye them? Now Allah hath more right that ye should fear Him, if ye are believers
SHAKIR: What! will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and aimed at the expulsion of the Messenger, and they attacked you first; do you fear them? But Allah is most deserving that you should fear Him, if you are believers. [Verify: Sura 9:13]

My points that I had made in the previous post, I believe, prevail. While, I can get more into technicalities, that is uncalled for. To make a simple point, what is the logic behind mentioning the precondition of hostility and aggression as subclause for not befriending "Unbelievers" in chapter 60, which is far removed from chapter 3? Also, if verse 9:5 calls for something as serious as killing off of idolators despite having had a pact with them as soon as its time period ends, would it not be pragmatic to forcefully mention then and there the caveat that those unbelievers have to be hostile and aggressive?

I rest my case here.

Disclaimer: Mr. Kashif had been patient and civil in his debate - something that I appreciate, nor did he insist or mention that I issue the clarifications/rebuttals that I did above.

Updates from my new Blog

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