Thursday, October 29, 2009

A page from History!

'This day that age'!

Harijan and local political workers proclaim that they will enter the Sri Ekambareshwarar Temple at Chettipulam near Vedaranyam, for the first time ever on September 30.
On that day and on the next day they find the temple locked. They do a sit-in for few hours and depart.
On October 14 they try temple entry again .The upper caste mob had blocked the road, placed tree logs, concrete tunnel pipes etc. at intermittent gaps. Heavy stone throwing by ‘caste’ Hindus greeted them and many got injured

A glimpse from India's not so glorious past?

Unfortunately No. This happened this year in 2009 in Tamilnadu, the bastion of backward class politics.

There has been long standing feud between politically and economically powerful 'Vanniyars and the Dalits in several parts of Tamilnadu.In many of the temples run by Vanniyars Dalits are never allowed entry.

About 300 CPI (M) workers and Dalits, led by Nagapattinam MLA Marimuthu, organised a temple entry agitation at Chettipulam on September 30 along with the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front. But they found the temple locked. When they tried to force entry Police stopped them.

It was decided at the peace talks that Nagapattinam RDO Rajendran held with the Dalits,'Caste' Hindus of the village and CPI (M) cadres on October 7 that dalits, led by Mr Marimuthu, would enter the temple on October 14 along with the villagers.

But on October 14, the village witnessed violence, lathicharge and police firing when the vehicles in which Dalits, accompanied by police and revenue officials were proceeding to the temple, were attacked by a mob.

Now the Good news

On October 27,Tuesday the District Collector Mr Munianathan under heavy Police security ushered in the Dalits inside the temple for the first time in its history.

"Hordes of women and men jostled each other as they crossed the threshold of the temple and walked towards the sanctum sanctorum with flowers, garlands and coconuts as offerings to the deity. As they craned their necks to catch a glimpse of their god, the DRO and the Collector personally collected their offerings and passed it on to the priest into the sanctum for special prayers.

The general folks of the village, other than the Dalits, were absent at the temple. Most of the men are said to be on the run, following the legal crackdown by police after the violence of October 14."

 Dalits offering prayers at the Ekambareshwarar temple in Chettipulam village near Vedaranyam at Nagapattinam district. Photo:M_Moorthy from The Hindu

"I am delighted that my many-year-old desire has been fulfilled today.”

This is how Mahatma Gandhi wrote in the visitors’ book shortly after offering worship at the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, along with Dalits and members of certain other “excluded communities” on February 4, 1946.

Speaking at a rally in Palani soon afterwards, he said worship of God’s image would serve no good unless people cleansed their hearts of hardness against fellow beings. God should be enshrined not in images but in human hearts. He said he worshipped the deities at the Madurai temple because that shrine was now open to Dalits.

Though more than 60 years have gone by discriminatory practices against Dalits continue in several parts of Tamil Nadu.

In a recent survey of 658 temples in 5 southern districts of Tamil Nadu it was found that some form of discrimination takes place in 200 of them.

Dalits have been denied entry into 121 temples. In 128 temples they do not have access to the sanctum sanctorum. They are not permitted to perform pujas at 106 shrines. Temple cars skip Dalit colonies at 174 places. Dalits are allowed to enter the places of worship only during specific hours fixed for them in 103 cases. In 86 temples, the honour of tying “parivattam” (a cloth tied around the head) has been denied to Dalits.

When will this shame of India and Hinduism be erased forever?

adapted from deccan chronicle,expressbuzz,the hindu,the frontline

Sunday, October 25, 2009

'Love Jihad'.Fact or fiction?

Whom do you think a communalist hates most?

Many may feel that an Islamic communalist will hate a Hindu/Christian communalist most while a Hindu communalist will hate a Muslim/Christian communalist most.

But this is not true.

Whom they hate most are the believers of their own religion who try to have strong friendship and social contacts with believers of other religion.

That's why Jinnah hated Maulana Azad most.
That's why a Hindutva activist killed Gandhiji.
That's why communalists of all hues and color hate inter-religious marriages,especially when the couple involved decides to stick on to their own religion.

Even if they do not stick on to their own religion,such marriages based on love increases the social contacts between families of different religions and should be encouraged if the conversion to the spouse's religion is with out compulsion.

"Love Jihad"

Recently we saw an increasing number of news reports about love used for forcible religious conversion in South India,mainly Kerala. It has been alleged that thousands of Hindu and a few Christian girls has been trapped in to love affairs with Islamist boys and later forced into marriages and conversion to Islam. A newspaper in Kerala coined the term 'Love Jihad' for this phenomenon.

If you search 'Love Jihad' on google you will see a large number of furious Hindutva websites trying their best to raise the anger in the Hindu mind.The statistics they quote are mind boggling. It ranges from 1000 to 5000 Hindu girls already converted to Islam by this 'Love jihad'.
Here is an excerpt from 'Hindu jagruti''s website.

"Trapping naive Non Muslim girls (Read as Hindu girls) in the web of love inorder to convert to Islam is the modus operandi of the said organisation. Already more than 4000 girls have been converted to Islam by this Jihadi Romeos.

Special branch of Police started investigation when marriages of such large scales are reported within last 6 months. As per the instructions to recruits of this organisation, they have to love a Hindu girl within the time frame of 2 weeks and brainwash them to get converted and marry within 6 months. Special instructions to breed atleast 4 kids have also been given. If the target won’t get trapped within first 2 weeks, they are instructed to leave them and move on to another girl."

Is this really true?

Most of the Hindutva websites reveal the source of their information as Police Special Branch reports. The Kerala High Court asked the Police to enquire about this.The DGP has presented a preliminary report in the Court on October 23.
The DGP's affidavit said that apart from the 2 cases before the court there is no proof that such incidents are taking place. At the same time the affidavit said "there are reasons to suspect ‘concentrated attempts’ to persuade girls to convert to Islam after they fall in love with Muslim boys but no organisation called ‘Love Jihad’ has been identified so far in the state". The affidavit said police had no evidence regarding the operation of love jihad and the source of money.

What is the truth behind this?
I am very well aware that Islamists recruit many youths from the campuses in Kerala for propagating hate in name of Islam.
I am also sure that some inter-religious 'love' marriages have taken place and most probably conversions too. Most of those marriages were genuine.
Was the conversion forced? Is it really an organised movement by 'Jihadi' organisations to increase the number of Muslims in India? Even if it is so has this taken place in such a large scale as being alleged?

The Police special branch report the Hindutva websites are quoting is about complaints registered in police stations regarding missing persons.Police themselves say that most of those compliants have already been withdrawn as the missing persons have returned to their families. Only a few are yet to be traced.The statistics are grossly exaggerated to create bigger effect.

Read here from 'The Hindu' a story of alleged 'love jihad' from Karnataka

The ‘Love Jehad’ that wasn’t

When Anitha (22) of Barimaru village in Bantwal taluk, went missing this June, the rumour mills fed by several Sangh Parivar organisations claimed that she was forcibly converted to Islam by a Pakistan-backed, professional ‘jehadist lover’.

On October 4, the head of the Gurupura Math, Rajashekharananda, held a protest meeting where he alleged that Anitha had fallen prey to a terrorist ploy. The event, which according to top police officers, threatened to create a communally sensitive situation, led to the hurried constitution of a special investigation team.

In less than two weeks the team cracked the case: Anitha was poisoned to death by Mohan Kumar, serial killer arrested on October 21, who allegedly confessed to having murdered her and robbed 17 other women by luring them with offers of marriage.

On October 15, the Hindu Janjagruthi Samiti held a protest outside the Deputy Commissioner’s Office alleging that over 3,000 Hindu girls from Dakshina Kannada and 30,000 from the rest of the State had gone missing since the “Love Jehad operation” was launched by the “terrorists” a year ago. These figures, posted on the Samiti’s website, are now being quoted by other Hindutva organisations as well.

However, official statistics given to The Hindu show that in the three years ended September 30 this year, 404 women went missing in the district. Of them, 332 women have since been traced by the police.

At Wednesday’s press conference, the police said that now only 57 women were missing in the district.

According to Superintendent of Police A.S. Rao, several of these 57 women are suspected to have committed suicide or eloped. “Among those who have eloped there are several who are not Hindus. There are also cases where Hindu women have eloped with Hindu men,” he said.

In another incident Siljaraj a woman of 23 years who eloped with her Muslim boy friend told the Karnataka High court that she had willingly converted to Islam and is waiting to get married under the provisions of the Special Marriages Act and asked for permission to go with her boy friend. But surprisingly the High Court asked her to return to her parent's home until the case is investigated.

Reacting to the order, senior advocate Ravi Varma Kumar said that it violated Article 21 (of life and personal liberty) and Article 25 (of freedom of religion) of the Indian Constitution. He cited Lata Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2006, in which the Supreme Court upheld the right of a person who had reached the age of majority to marry of his or her own choice.
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has said it would file a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Karnataka High Court’s order.

I feel that more than this alleged 'love jihad' being a threat to Hindu society [ are Hindu girls so dumb???], it has become a fodder for the propaganda machine of the Sangh Parivar to propagate communal animosity and there by helping them in trying to reduce all social contacts between Hindus and believers of other religions.
Muslim and Christian priests have also issued warnings to youth to be cautious of such inter-religious social contacts.
As I said above Communalists of all colors are the same.They hate social and religious harmony because then their very existence is questioned.

The issue underlines the need for high vigilance against communalisation of our society.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A very deserving Nobel Prize

As the World began a long and never ending debate about whether US President Obama deserved Nobel peace prize or not, the Swedish Academy announced the award of Nobel Prize in Economics to a very deserving woman from Indiana University,  Elinor Ostrom.

                                                       Elinor Ostrom.   Photograph: John Sommers  II/Reuters

She shares the award with Oliver Williamson .

She became the first woman to get the Nobel Prize in Economics and the interesting thing to note is that she is not an economist. She is a political scientist and is currently the Professor of Political Science in Indiana University in USA.

Many have termed Elinor Ostrom getting the Economics Nobel as "most unexpected" or even "radical and awesome choice".

What is so important and significant in her work?

Most economists consider individuals ruthlessly selfish so that they eventually destroy the natural resource they commonly own or share. This is called as 'Tragedy of Commons'

This refers to a dilemma described in an influential article by that name written by Garrett Hardin in 1968. The article describes a dilemma in which multiple individuals acting independently and solely and rationally consulting their own self-interest will ultimately destroy a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long term interest for this to happen.

Central to Hardin's article is an example, a hypothetical and simplified situation from medieval land tenure in Europe, of herders sharing a common parcel of land on which they are each entitled to let their cows graze. In Hardin's example, it is in each herder's interest to put the next (and succeeding) cows he acquires onto the land, even if the carrying capacity of the common is exceeded and it is temporarily or permanently damaged for all as a result. The herder receives all of the benefits from an additional cow, while the entire group shares the damage to the common. If all herders make this individually rational economic decision, the common will be depleted or even destroyed to the detriment of all.

So what is the solution?

Solution from the Right of political spectrum is to privatise the resource so that everyone will have ownership of small parcels of resources and treat that parcel better than when they shared it.

The Leftist's solution is to make Government take over the resource and bring strict rules to prevent over-exploitation.

But Ostrom disagrees with both solutions.

Privatisation, especially taking over by big Corporations according to her will only increase the exploitation and will result in severe depletion of the Nature's resources.

Governments if not environmentally sensitive or sensitive to the wishes of the people may act similarly to a big Corporation.

Ostrom's studied how different communities in different parts of the World use forests, lakes, groundwater basins and fisheries. She showed that the commons could be an opportunity for communities themselves to manage resources.

Here is an excerpt from her paper "Beyond the tragedies of Commons"

In an effort to move beyond Hardin’s classic allegory, it is important that one does not dismiss Hardin’s predictions for some Common Pool Resources. The major problem of his original analysis was that he presented “the tragedy” as a universal phenomenon. No set of users could overcome the tragedy. Thus, CPR users were trapped needing external interventions to extract them from gross overuse. Hardin’s presumption of universality is what one needs to move beyond.

Having said this, many field settings exist where Hardin is correct. Over harvesting
frequently occurs when resource users are totally anonymous, do not have a foundation of trust and reciprocity, cannot communicate, and have no established rules.

In an experimental lab, eight subjects presented with a common-pool resource problem over harvest when they do not know who is in their group, no feedback is provided on individual actions, and they cannot communicate. In fact, they over harvest more than predicted by the game theory and fit the behavior predicted by Hardin.

If the experimental subjects are enabled to sit in a circle talking about the puzzle in a
face-to-face group, they usually develop trust and reciprocity. Within a few rounds, they reduce over harvesting substantially and do very well. In traditional, noncooperative game theory, communication is not supposed to improve the outcomes obtained, but many groups solve the problem of over harvesting after engaging in face-to-face communication.

In the above paper she writes extensively about her studies in fishing communities of Mexico and shows how some of them where able to self organise and successfully sustain a pool of natural resources.

Kevin Gallagher writes about her works in The Guardian;

"In her classic work Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Ostrom shows that under certain conditions, when communities are given the right to self-organise they can democratically govern themselves to preserve the environment.

At the policy level, Ostrom's findings give credence to the many indigenous and peasant movements across the developing world where people are trying to govern the land they have managed for centuries but run into conflict with governments and global corporations.

Some economists on the frontier of their discipline have started to use Ostrom's insights in their work. In their recent book Reclaiming Nature: Environmental Justice and Ecological Restoration, James Boyce, Liz Stanton and Sunita Narain, show how communities in Brazil, India, West Africa and even in the United States have managed their resources in a sustainable manner when given their rightful access to their assets"

The Nobel Prize also acknowledges her methodology of work. Unlike other economists who seldom leave the black board/laptop Ostrom did spend a lot of time in the field collecting data, conducting case studies and studying the behaviour of different communities. She also devised many experimental games both in the lab and on the field.

This is what the Nobel Prize committee said about her:

"Elinor Ostrom has challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatized. Based on numerous studies of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes, and groundwater basins, Ostrom concludes that the outcomes are, more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories. She observes that resource users frequently develop sophisticated mechanisms for decision-making and rule enforcement to handle conflicts of interest, and she characterizes the rules that promote success-ful outcomes."

She is considered as a 'brilliant scholar, good communicator, great teacher and a generous colleague'.

Let us hope that this award of Nobel Prize to Ostrom will trigger more research by economists in this field of human and community behaviour. Such a change in approach advocated by Ostrom may help us to preserve fast depleting natural resources.

To know more about her work click here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A sudden end to the voice of the voiceless

The noted Civil rights activist K. Balagopal (52) died suddenly of cardiac arrest in a hospital in Hyderabad on  October 8th.

Prof Balagopal was a brilliant mathematician with a Masters degree and a doctorate and was teaching in Kakatiya University before he quit the job to become a full time human rights activist in 1985.

He later learned law and became a lawyer and fought hundreds of cases against State violence and fake encounter deaths. His arguments before AP High Court in the case pertaining to ‘encounter’ killings resulted in the historic judgment which said "in each incident of encounter killing; a case should be registered against the police, who will have to face trial in a court.

Balagopal was arrested several times and was once even kidnapped by Green Tigers, a self-styled outfit thought to be supported by the State during his long struggle as a civil rights’ activist. He traveled almost every part of the country for arduous and painstaking fact finding missions relating to Human, Civil and Democratic Rights’ Violation. One of the latest reports of his team was about the violence against Christians in Orissa and Karnataka

Balagopal was one of the staunch civil liberties activists in Andhra Pradesh and the leader of Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), with which he was associated since its inception in 1980’s,

Balagopal was close to the Naxalites during early part of his activist carrer. Later on the issue of violence by Maoists he left APCLC and formed Human Rights Forum.

Since then he was steadfastly opposing the ‘red violence’ of the Maoists as well as the State violence. He was a prolific writer on people’s issues and had recently written about the developments on the Maoist front in West Bengal.

His bold criticism of the Maoist’s propensity to indulge in violence attracted severe criticism from the Naxalites.

Here is how noted writer and social activist V.Geetha remembers him in 'The Hindu'.

"Balagopal was not just another civil liberties man: A brilliant mathematician who gave up his academic vocation for public life, a public intellectual, alive to ethical doubts and concerns, yet committed to being political and accountable in the here and now of history, he sought to link thought, action, consciousness… For many of us, the manner in which he lived his life was as important as what he said: he was like a moral compass that you turned to, to check your own political orientation and direction......

For nearly two decades Balagopal had worked hard and argued much to deepen and broaden our understanding of democracy in this country — precept and practice came together in his work, as he wrote, took up legal cases, organised fact-finding missions and called attention to the darker aspects of state power and authority in India.

While agreeing that state violence against its citizens and the impunity with which it was often carried out was the worst possible threat to democracy, he called attention to rights violations in other contexts. Structured inequality, whether of caste or gender, he argued, was as much a source of these violations. Further, he reasoned, the reactive violence of communist militants as well as the spate of killings that the latter carried out in the name of carrying out a ‘class’ war often ended in the deaths of vulnerable citizens or minor state functionaries, even as it left intact the real and material structures of state power. He argued too of the importance of democracy, of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution — for these had come about as a result of people’s struggles and movements, and rights groups had to learn to defend these hard-won historical legacies."

In death of Prof Balagopal India has lost a great champion of human rights. Thousands of voice less people's voice has been silenced.

Let us hope there will be more and more people brave enough to walk the path shown by him.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Once up on a time this 'man' lived here

It has been 140 years since the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. And his autobiography continues to be a bestseller with annual sales of 200,000 copies even in these rapidly changing times.

Most of Gandhi's written works have been compiled into 100 volumes. These are known as the Complete Works of Mahatma Gandhi, and they run into about 50,000 pages.

The apostle of non-violence is said to be the only public figure to have written so much.
"He wrote without stopping. When his right hand got tired, he would use his left. There is still so much of his work not in the public domain - as many as 30,000 pages are scattered in the form of letters and other writings," said  Anupam Mishra, director Gandhi Peace Foundation.

Here are some excerpts from his writings.

Absence of Hatred

"I hold myself to be incapable of hating any being on earth. By a long course of prayerful discipline, I have ceased for over forty years to hate anybody. I know this is a big claim. Nevertheless, I make it in all humility. But I can and do hate evil wherever it exists. I hate the system of government that the British people have set up in India. I hate the ruthless exploitation of India even as I hate from the bottom of my heart the hideous system of untouchability for which millions of Hindus have made themselves responsible. But I do not hate the domineering Englishmen as I refuse to hate the domineering Hindus. I seek to reform them in all the loving ways that are open to me."

"The trouble with our votaries of ahimsa is that they have made of ahimsa a blind fetish and put the greatest obstacle in the way of the spread of true ahimsa in our midst. The current-and, in my opinion, mistaken-view of ahimsa has drugged our conscience and rendered us insensible to a host of other and more insidious forms of himsa like harsh words, harsh judgements, ill will, anger, spite and lust of cruelty; it has made us forget that there may be far more himsa in the slow torture of men and animals, the starvation and exploitation to which they are subjected out of selfish greed, the wanton humiliation and oppression of the weak and the killing of their self-respect that we witness all around us today."

On Voluntary Poverty
"When I found myself drawn into the political coil, I asked myself what was necessary for me, in order to remain untouched by immorality, by untruth, by what is known as political gain. I came definitely to the conclusion that, if I had to serve the people in whose midst my life was cast and of whose difficulties I was a witness from day to day, I must discard all wealth, all possession.

I cannot tell you with truth that, when this belief came to me, I discarded everything immediately. I must confess to you that progress at first was slow. And now, as I recall those days of struggle, I remember that it was also painful in the beginning. But, as days went by, I saw that I had to throw overboard many other things which I used to consider as mine, and a time came when it became a matter of positive joy to give up those things. One after another then, by almost geometric progression, things slipped away from me. And, as I am describing my experiences, I can say a great burden fell off my shoulders and I felt that I could now walk with ease and do my work also in the service of my fellow men with great comfort and still greater joy. The possession of anything then became a troublesome thing and a burden."

On travelling in third class in trains

"The third class compartments are practically as dirty, and the closet arrangements as bad, today as they were then, There may be a little improvement now, but the difference between the facilities provided for the first and the third classes is out of all proportion to the difference between the fares for the two classes. Third class passengers are treated like sheep and their comforts are sheep's comforts. In Europe I travelled third and only once first, just to see what it was like but there I noticed no such difference between the first and the third classes. In South Africa class comforts are better there than here. In parts of South Africa third class compartments are provided with sleeping accommodation and cushioned seats. The accommodation is also regulated, so as to prevent overcrowding, whereas here I have found the regulation limit usually exceeded.

The indifference of the railway authorities to the comforts of the third class passengers, combined with the dirty and inconsiderate habits of the passengers themselves, makes third class travelling a trial for a passenger of cleanly ways.

I can think of only one remedy for this awful state of things that educated men should make a point of travelling third class and reforming the habits of the people, as also of never letting the railway authorities rest in peace, sending in complaints wherever necessary, never resorting to bribes or any unlawful means for obtaining their own comforts, and never putting up with infringements of rules on the part of anyone concerned. This, I am sure, would bring about considerable improvement."

About denying his children education in 'elite'schools

"I could have sent them to the schools for European children, but only as a matter of favour and exception. No other Indian children were allowed to attend them.Had I been without a sense of self-respect and satisfied of myself with having for my children the education that other children could not get, I should have deprived them of the object-lesson in liberty and self-respect that I gave them at the cost of the literary training. And where a choice has to be made between liberty and learning, who will not say that the former has to be preferred a thousand times to the latter"

About accepting Gifts
"The Natal Indians bathed me with the nectar of love. Farewell meetings were arranged at every place, and costly gifts were presented to me. The gifts of course included things in gold and silver, but there were articles of costly diamond as well.

What right had I to accept all these gifts ? Accepting them, how could I persuade myself that I was serving the community without remuneration ? All the gifts, excepting a few from my clients, were purely for my service to the community, and I could make no difference between my clients and co-workers; for the clients also helped me in my public work.

The evening I was presented with the bulk of these things I had a sleepless night. I walked up and down my room deeply agitated, but could find no solution. It was difficult for me to forego gifts worth hundreds, it was more difficult to keep them.
 I decided that I could not keep these things. I drafted a letter, creating a trust of them in favour of the community
I am definitely of opinion that a public worker should accept no costly gifts."
On Satyagraha
" Satyagraha is a relentless search for truth and a determination to search truth....Satyagraha is an attribute of the spirit within....Satyagraha has been designed as an effective substitute for violence.... Satyagraha is a process of educating public opinion, such that it covers all the elements of the society and makes itself irresistible....The fight of Satyagraha is for the strong in spirit, not the doubter or the timid. Satyagraha teaches us the art of living as well as dying....Satyagraha, of which civil-resistance is but a part, is to me the universal law of life....Satyagraha can rid society of all evils, political, economic, and moral...A genuine Satyagraha should never excite contempt in the opponent even when it fails to command regard or respect....Satyagraha thrives on repression till at last the repressor is tired and the object of Satyagraha is gained....Satyagraha does not depend on the outside [for] help; it derives all its strength from within....The method of Satyagraha requires that the Satyagrahi should never lose hope, so long as there is the slightest ground left for it....In the dictionary of Satyagraha, there is no enemy. Since Satyagraha is a method of conversion and conviction, it seeks never to use the slightest coercion... For a Satyagraha brigade, only those are eligible who believe in ahimsa--nonviolence and satya--truth... A Satyagrahi has infinite patience, abundant faith in others, and ample hope....A Satyagrahi cannot go to law for a personal wrong....In the code of the Satyagrahi, there is no such thing as surrender to brute force."  

About his Autobiography

"My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth. And if every page of these chapters does not proclaim to the reader that the only means for the realization of Truth is ahimsa, I shall deem all my labour in writing these chapters to have been in vain. And even though my efforts in this behalf may prove fruitless, let the readers know that the vehicle, not the great principle, is at fault."