Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Press Conference for IMD 2011


Press Conference at Press Club of India, Mumbai on eve of International Men's Day celebrated on 19th November, covered on DD Sahyadri

Saturday, November 19, 2011

They take dowry. Excellent! Fascinating!

The title of this post might seem repulsive for many people. 'They take dowry', this statement would definitely unsettle people who see taking dowry as a heinous act. Many people would cringe at the regressive thought of pursuing a medieval tradition like dowry. The dowry seekers will be looked down upon and instantly sympathy would be, in favour of the victims. 'The victims must be helped. The greedy perpetrators indulging in such uncivil nature of forging relationships - that monetize the sacred bond of marriage in materialistic terms - must be booked and made to pay a price' would be the reaction of the majority of the people.

Imagine if someone reacts in an exact opposite nature. Imagine someone saying, 'They take dowry' and follow it up by the words 'Excellent! Fascinating!'. One would be curious to know if such people could be booked under criminal law. One would hope that they are penalised severely for encouraging it. The disgust that someone would feel on hearing such a statement would be understandable, more so, if the statement is made out by educated, urban, intelligentsia. Naturally taking dowry represents a kind of bullying that the dowry seeker is subjecting the victim upon. Such kind of domination will have its extension into the victim being abused further,after the marriage and many would suggest to not go for bonding such relationships.

All this while, when you have been reading the above two paragraphs, the image in your mind might be of a newly wed bride being harassed for dowry, or family members of the groom demanding hefty sums of money or expensive commodities as dowry for getting their son married to a girl. Without batting an eyelid, in the image, the abuser is the male and his family. The victim is the girl and her family. There are laws which will deal with such acts. The laws can arrest everyone from the husbands family, whoever have been named by the victim (the girl in question). There are also laws that will book people who say, 'They take dowry. Excellent! Fascinating!' for encouraging it...


If there is a role reversal, in the image that has been formed in your mind, the flow of justice stops in its course!. If the dowry seeker is the girls family. The victim is the boy. If the boys family gives dowry to get him married to a girl, which by extension means he is being exposed to being further abused by the girl, then there is no provision in law to handle this situation.

The first reaction, a false one at that, would be such instances don't happen at all.

Let me introduce you to a tweet by a columnist who reacts as 'Excellent!'  to the news that men give hefty dowry to marry a girl. He is only joining the cheers of a noted journalist, who calls this news as, well what else, 'Fascinating!'

The tweet can be accessed here - https://twitter.com/#!/pragmatic_d/status/124116480978726912
The news item can be accessed here - http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/12/us-india-bachelors-idUSTRE79B1UV20111012

Here he is talking about the article which says, "The situation has also led to another reversal in custom, with some women and their parents asking for a lot of money from men to allow men to marry them, an inversion of the usual dowry system in which the woman's family has to pay the man's."

He gives an elated reaction of triumphalism. This reaction wont be restricted to any one person only. Our society has been conditioned to believe that any wrong happening with women is harassment, while a similar trouble for men is their weakness.

So, in short, a male seeking dowry is a criminal act. But if the dowry is being demanded by a female, then its termed as Excellent! (progressive?)

Ideally, the reaction should have been of the similar disgust as anyone would feel if the victim was a female. But since we are far off from the Utopian ability to perceive situations in a balanced manner and consider agony of men, the reactions usually smack of indifference to men's issues. The general misandry in the society stops us from genuinely addressing men's issues.

In this reaction, lies the gist of the movement of the 'Save Indian Family Foundation'. I am a member of the 'Protect Indian Family Foundation' which is an NGO under the umbrella organisation of SIFF. We alongwith Indian Family Foundation and M.A.S.H.A.L had organised a press conference at the Press Club of India, Mumbai on 18th November 2011 on the eve of International Men's Day being celebrated globally on 19th November every year. The press conference dealt with Men's Rights Movement highlighting the abuse of men. The main demand - that will take care of all other needs - being that men need a 'National Commission for Men' and a 'Ministry for Welfare of Men' .

Wishing you a Happy Men's Day!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kiran Bedi's speech: War of perception through Media

In the ongoing 'agitation against corruption' after 10 longs days of protests, agitation, fasting and difficult diplomatic and arm twisting parleys between the govt. and Team Anna, yesterday was a comparatively low rabble-rousing headline day.

The media is playing out to the gallery, be it in favour of Team Anna or against it. Yesterday was a day when in the game of media perception ping pong, Team Anna was targeted.

Apart from Rahul Gandhi's speech in parliament - which itself was directionless and added to confusion, rather than offer a solution - there were not much visuals to relay in a loop and still keep viewers interested.

Kiran Bedi's speech and Ompuri's speech were targeted as being, what else, 'unconstitutional, vituperative, against democracy, etc; *yawns*
What they said was nothing new nor was it a feeling held by a few, but their bad luck the nitpickers got a chance to pick on them on a 'low breaking news day'.

It is interesting to see how a single speech is presented in two different forms from two different media houses, showing its an all out media war in a large proportion.

First, is a highly emotional Kiran Bedi talking about how MPs have only extracted money out of the people and a frustrated organizer's outburst at the inaction of govt. in response to a 74 year old's 11 days of fasting.

This is from The Times of India and shows her talking about the MPs. It has been edited to not show the elements that might be deemed embarrassing for Team Anna.

Second video is from NDTV.com, it naturally being as always in favour of the ruling dispensation has put only the parts that seem embarrassing to Team Anna.

The truth is a combination of both these videos. The crowd has been awaiting for a long time now for some action. The wear out of a prolonged protest was setting in and Kiran Bedi just tried to keep the crowd amused in a manner that would keep them interested, but alas the 'disconnected-from-reality-intellects' expected her to speak always with a stiff upper lip.

Time these guys just woke up... A 'Jaago Re' campaign required for the intellects now?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What detractors of Anna Hazare's campaign need to know

Detractors of Anna Hazare's call for a 'protest against corruption', might have been shocked with the disconnect they had with the reality.

I am not talking about the political parties which dragged themselves down with their self-destructive rhetoric nor the ones that have flip-flopped between supporting 'India against Corruption' on the streets but opposing it within the parliament.

A few 'intellectuals' had predicted that Anna Hazare and his team - lets not call them civil society as it was only one of the many terms they could have used- would be largely disappointed when they go ahead for their protest on 16th August.

Some people say the protest gained prominence when the govt. shot itself in the foot by arresting Anna and putting him in Tihar Jail, the same one which is housing Raja, Kalmadi and Kanimozhi - all major role players of recently unearthed scams.

Anna would have become a phenomena with his fast, irrespective of his arrest. His April fast had evoked strong reactions as well, without he being arrested. What happened with his arrest was that the govt. dragged itself further down on credibility index.

The protest would anyways have been a success and Congress could have gained some credence if it had still agreed to table both the versions of the Lok Pal bill. But seemingly, the recovery of election expenditure, coupled with lost opportunities for postings within organisation and government have made the political managers of the Congress lethargic, over-confident or arrogant or all of the above, which resulted in committing political suicide and getting alienated from the masses. The blunder that Congress allowed to happen is that it became an almost Congress vs Team Anna war. If it had allowed opposition parties also onboard the Drafting committee, the damage inflicted upon itself could have been reduced.

The other point that is being made out by 'intellectuals' is that people generally do not vote; they wont even know the names of the municipal corporators of their region; protest is being seen as an alternative to voting, as things can now be seen to be done by organizing protests, etc;

I would disagree with most of them. It is true that middle class is the one that shuns itself from voting and the poor sell their votes and rich buy politicians, leaving out an exasperated middle class whose delusion keeps growing at its helplessness. But it is not to be generalized that all of poor sell their votes or all of middle class is indifferent to elections.

The ones who vote are the ones who will come out to protest. The indifferent class is neither represented nor is active enough to bother to protest. While the ones who would bother to come out to protest peacefully would be the ones who go to vote and would be further interested in the political process because frankly there is no alternative to it. A fight against corruption and protests of such magnitude are not a regular occurance nor can anyone mobilise support with regularity, even Anna for that matter. For anyone to think they will have policies in their favour by simply protesting would be naive, which the people are not.

It is neither undemocratic nor tyrannical for the electorate to propose changes in laws or give constructive feedback about how they want them to be. The govt. takes opinion before formulating any laws and keeps constantly acting on the feedback while making amendments. There is opposition to this bill because they are directly going to be hit due to this bill and want to get only their version out.

It is misplaced to say that a failure to see a magic wand ending corruption, would distance the middle class from the electoral process. If anything, it would imbibe confidence that things can change, because the agitation has already brought a change of stance from the govt. It wont be the hope that would die, but the general cynicism about politics that would decrease. NOBODY is looking at Lokpal to cast a magic spell and end corruption.

This agitation is at crossroads, how it shapes from here doesnt rest upon the Team Anna nor the people who are protesting, but the political class and think tanks who have to now reciprocate. It can be utilised positively by the intelligentsia to make the youth more politically literate and let the nation gain by their active participation or dismiss this gathering of disgruntled agitators as a jingoistic blip that would disappear with the next national distraction.

Moreover, the trajectory moving forward with Team Anna is already present in the form of
(a)Right to Reject - rejecting all the candidates and choosing none of the above option making a re-election compulsory;
(b)Right to Recall - constituents can recall a misgoverning MP between elections too and a candidate cannot visit his constituency only once every five years;
These are the electoral reforms that might have a massive bearing on the electoral process.

The critics were there when RTI was being debated. The cynics were fighting tooth and nail to get the file notifications out of the purview of RTI. But now the same intellects have used it for their advantage. The same govt. is advertising it as a medium of transparency.

If past record is anything to go by, with RTI and other laws that Anna's agitations have bought, it could be safe to say, Janlok Pal or Right to Reject and Right to Recall can only strengthen the democratic set-up with accountability becoming a prime virtue.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Walk your talk - I did my one bit, now your turn

By now we have all gone through the ritual of watching the comparison between Lokpal bill and Jan Lokpal Bill.
By now it is clear to most of us that Govts. Lok pal bill is nothing but a sham.

We might have reservations about Jan Lokpal in its totality, i.e. all the clauses might not be in the best interest of the nation in case a corrupt bigoted person becomes a Lokpal.
We have seen the consequences of assuming the people chosen to do a job will do that job honestly. We might need better checks and balances, before giving as much power to a single authority as proscribed by the Jan Lokpal Bill.

But... what we all need to agree upon is that the current system has failed to maintain propriety of public office and additional checks are required to arrest the onslaught of corruption on our society.

One point worth mentioning is that neither corruption is new nor post-independence phenomena, it is as old as the famous oldest business in the world - prostitution. But that doesn't mean we let prostitution become mainstream and allow it unabated. Similarly, corruption in such a massive scale and as destructive as much as it is dragging our country's progress, development and success cannot be accepted with a sense of cynicism. When we strive for zero tolerance will we achieve something acceptable. Indifference wont work.

Sense of cynicism is all prevalent when a change is sought. The same people who are saying, 'Kuch nahi honewala' had kept saying 'Kuch nahi honewala' when Anna Hazare and his team had fought for RTI (Right to Information Act). Today UPA itself is advertising RTI. RTI has helped in unearthing a lot of scams. RTI is helping people get their jobs done which previously would have been impossible without bribe.

The experience with RTI activism could be a benchmark for the Jan Lokpal to take shape. Indians have unequivocally slammed indifference and lethargy by supporting Anna Hazare. This is India's turn to shout back that we wont take the crap thrown at us quietly anymore.

I visited Azad Maidan today albeit for a brief period, but yes the sense of having contributed is giving me a pleasant feeling. The atmosphere was electrifying, something that cant be explained. But something you would want to narrate to your grandchildren. You MUST be there to experience it.

Here are some pics...

People were getting arrested and were being put in police vans. There was a queue of police vans to arrest people.

BhArat MAta ki jai! Vande MAtaram were the slogans that filled the air. Most people couldnt talk on their cellphones. As the sound of sloganeering was quite high.

Raghu Ram of MTV Roadies fame was present at the stage. Music director Vishal of the Vishal-Shekhar duo also addressed the crowd.

People were queuing up to court arrest. The police was arresting people and taking them to a place far off and dropping them off. Police vans made several rounds like this. The arrested people - young, old, children, men, women, able, handicapped - all were returning to the queue to court arrest.

Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik wanted to reach the stage but just could not find his way amongst the sloganeering crowd. He was then surrounded by the press and electronic media. He returned to the gate and held an impromptu press conference.

Yours Truly.

The permission at Azad Maidan is for 7 days and make your existence count. Give even a half hour to the cause and help yourself...

I wouldnt want to gloat about it nor sermonize but frankly although I could easily do more, I feel I have walked my talk, did my one bit. Now, its your turn...


Update :1 Thanks to Shakti, who commented here and asked for my permission to publish this blog in DNA, this blog has appeared in print in DNA Mumbai edition in the 'Around the blog' section on page 6 on 22nd August 2011.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pre-independence Map of India

Map of India before independence under British Rule

It is interesting to see how the names were changed.

Rajputana lost its centuries old name and became Rajasthan.
United provinces were renamed as Uttar Pradesh.
Central Provinces became Madhya Pradesh

What is more interesting is that the British did not directly control most parts of India, they were still under royals and monarchs earning the name princely states. The effect of divide and rule is prominent when we see almost 60% of India not under direct British rule but still they managing to rule a populace of 30 crores with a strength of 55,000 Britishers dispatched from Great Britain.

We must value this independence and not take freedom for granted.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Initiatives towards responsibilities do bring results.

Through this post, I would like to share a recent experience I had, about what we could achieve with a little alertness from ourselves. In our country - with attitudes where, helping a blind person to cross a road is considered as a social work or activism - we are far too much engrossed in our own lives. Activism is something described as an action taken to make a change. With our duties we wont attempt to make changes, but to fulfill our responsibilities towards our society. The activism of 'India against Corruption' and 'Bharat Swabhiman' in the recent weeks have had a profound impact on me, at least to not shy away from a social responsibility if confronted with. This post wont be about sermonizing nor about bragging, I am as much guilty of the things mentioned as any average Indian would be.

Time and again we keep reading about instances where the India map has been compromised with. Most nations and publications world over show the Pok as a part of Pakistan and Aksai Chin as part of China. A few years ago Bajaj Allianz group had put up this map on their website and were riled for it. At the height of our complaints about racism in Australia, we found that their maps were all depicting our country wrongly and we found one more reason to blame their attitudes. The maps were there before too, but yes pointing at them at that time gave us brownie points and we shamelessly used them to twist a few arms.

Last year, we had to publish a few India maps for our company brochure and bingo I found out why it could be such a big deal for publications to make such mistakes. We needed a 300 DPI or higher resolution image of the map and our foreign counterparts published the map found in UN and elsewhere in the world, except for India. On our objections, we were assigned the task to get the right maps. We were unable to find a suitable one. I understood that it is not an easy task to find a good resolution, politically correct map of India. We did find one and published it, but the experience remained with me.

A few months ago our whole media was up against 'The Economist' magazine's arrogance. It had shown a map with Pok as part of Pakistan with the real borders, not the textbook ones. It had anticipated trouble and had written at the end of the article that censorship in India - which according to it was more stringent and suppressing freedom of speech than Pakistan or China - might leave Indian readers deprived of viewing the map. This had caused outrage in the Indian media.

This incidence might make us believe we are very strict about our territorial boundaries and take our own publications seriously. But in reality it is not so. I was travelling Jet Airways and saw that the June edition of Jet Wings magazine, specifically designed and distributed for domestic flights, had enlisted and marked places for all the important music festivals in India. You guessed it right, the map they had shown was not the politically correct one.

Just a day before I saw the maps, reports were all over media how a few Indian politicians had complained to National Geographic's maps of India in offices of foreign countries, world over. It was implausible for me to believe the same set of gentlemen would not have seen the maps in Jet Wings. I registered my objection with the magazine on their site and I got a reply from them saying the illustrator wont be employed again, it was his mistake. I pointed out to them that the purpose was to educate people that national boundaries have to be taken seriously, snatching someones employment might not be the solution.

I pointed out this to Mr. Rajesh Kalra of Times of India. He put it on his blog post on The Times of India website, to highlight the fact that while we would want to take to task others on matters seemingly important to us, we dont follow the rules ourselves. He attributed the initiative to me on my Facebook profile, although I must thank him for pursuing the issue.

Then something happened that I had not anticipated, Jet Wings editorial team replied to the blog and the reactions it evoked. It was put up by Rajesh on his next blog post. Jet Wings had decided to take out the page containing the map from all the magazines on board.

The effect of my initiative was felt when I was travelling Jet again last week. The torn page from the magazine is in one way a trophy for me as well as a symbol inspiring me. As if crying out loud saying, you never know what results your small innocuous initiative might bring. This was even more overwhelming when there were reports of informal deals with Pakistan vis-a-vis Kashmir. As long as the official line is that Kashmir is an integral part of India and Indian territories mark it as her own, we need to be vigilant against making any other version an accepted reality.

For, disintegration starts in the mind, be it an individual or a society or a nation. We have a duty to fulfill towards others and our society and it really wont demand much from us.

Hope we can all remain vigilant and contribute!

Update1: Jet Wings has added a corrigendum in its July issue apologising for the mistake in representing the Map of India :)