Perils of Being a Non-vegetarian

I was surprised and shocked to hear the news that dead animals, collected from garbage dumps, are being processed and supplied as meat for human consumption in restaurants. Animals included dead dogs, and cats and I do not know what not. I hope there was no dead donkey.

Born in a Bengali brahmin family, I am not a vegetarian. But my uncle was. Like any self respecting Bengali vegetarian, my uncle loved his fish. He would, however, not allow eggs hatched by a hen (moorgir deem in Bengali) to enter his household. Those days chicken (moorgi in Bengali) used to associated with a snack served along with liqour and by extension linked to debasement and debauchary. My uncle, however, had no objection to eggs hatched by a duck (haanser deem). This suited me well. Because duck eggs were bigger in size than chicken eggs.

My father was less conservative. I remember going with him to neighborhood butcher shop and by mutton every Sunday. I studied in a boarding school run by Rama Krishna Mission. Swami Vivekananda had urged youth of India “to eat meat and play football, to understand Gita better” (not exact quote). As a result, non-vegetarian food used to be served four days a week in our hostel. Meal included fish in the morning and egg in the evening. On Saturday afternoon, a goat or two would be sacrificed. All of us would wait eagerly for dinner bell. Meal used to be terrible, more water than mutton, but it was still a mutton curry.

I was introduced to chicken when I was in college. My friend invited me to a beer party. Thereafter, I would go to such party to gorge on chicken tikka. As my gluttony became apparent, gradually they stopped calling me. Beef and pork were still a no no. My mother would give a scientific twist to her arguments by saying “in a hot tropical country like India, beef and pork generated too much heat, which may not be good for health.” To top her argument, she would say “many cows have disease and tape worm.” Those were days when gau rakshaks were not rummaging through peoples refrigerator in search of beef. Anyway, we did not have a refrigerator. I followed my mothers advice and did not eat either beef or pork. No I was not afraid. Any, my mother did not know that it is mostly buffalo meat that is sold as beef in India.

My resolve was broken as I was going for my graduate studies. On air, I was served some meat preparation. Without fuss, I ate it. It was certainly not mutton or lamb or chicken. But I did not protest or ask for a vegetarian meal. When I landed in Canada, my first meal, encouraged by a fellow Indian, was a hot dog and then a few days later a hamburger from McDonald. Hamburger was most certainly had a beef patty. And, about  sausage in hot dog, the less said is better. Managing my expensed in a shoestring budget, I realised chicken and beef were least expensive compared to ham, lamb and mutton. In my defence, I can say that in Canada food meant for human consumption was inspected better rigorously and Canada was a cold country.

As the news of dead animal carcass from dump yards for human consumption hit the airwave, I wonder, in India of 2018, who knows what is being home delivered and eaten in the name of numerous non-vegetarian dishes like chicken chowmein, chicken fried rice, chilly chicken etc, to name a few. I wonder what my mother would say about eating non vegetarian food today. This information could desist people from eating non-vegetarian food indiscriminately, from sundry joints.

Apart from societal aberration, something is changing inside. I think of cruelty inflicted upon chickens in commercial farms, steroids pumped in cattle to increase muscle, toxin under fish skin and infection in farmed fish, the list goes on and on. Once in a while, I also wonder am I trampling on the right of another living organism for pleasing my taste buds? Digestive system certainly does not seem to relish it. Am I becoming a sissy with age? Apparently, no societal pressure works better than self realisation and regulation.

Source:

Racket supplying dead animal meat to Kolkata restaurants thrived with …

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/west-bengal-dead-meat-racket-thrived-with-municipal-staff-help-5159326/

Are Farmed Salmon One of the Most Toxic Foods in the World?

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/04/30/salmon-fish-farming.aspx

Advertisements

What a Shame

In Mahabharata, the genesis of the great battle of Kurukshetra was insult to a woman. Draupadi was wagered by Pandavas in the game of dice. She was disrobed by Kauravas after winning the game. Today, another Mahabharata is being enacted when a young nomadic girl is raped and murdered. Instead of finding her justice, we are embroiled in a battle of identity politics. We are busy digging out how many crimes have been committed on Hindus and how many by muslims. We are trying to find out if death of Asifa was a conspiracy to change demography Jammu? We are more interested in uniting Hindus and protect perpetrators of crime.

In a state where Mata Vaishno Devi has her seat, in a state where prepubertal girls are worshipped as manifestation of Mata, an eight year old girl was raped and killed. She was held captive and raped inside a temple, an abode of god. Someone travelled from a distant city of Meerut to Jammu, to rape this hapless girl. A policeman, who is supposed to protect average citizens, also raped her. Finally, just before she was to be killed, one man took his last shot at her drugged, battered body. Instead of helping jail these beasts, what do lawyers do? They march with tricolor demanding release of criminals. They threaten defence lawyer. They stop police from filing chargesheet.

Has our tricolor become so trivial that people march with it in defence of rapists and murderers? Is this the same tricolor, to protect whose honor our soldiers die everyday in our borders? All these men and some women too, are Hindus. Is it wrong, if I say I am embarrassed to call myself a Hindu?

I was reading an article by Ms Tavleen Singh. The author described how aggressive pursuer of Hinduvtwa ideology have hijacked development agenda of Prime Minister Modi. Every time an Akhlaq, a Pehlu Khan, an Afrazul, and now an Afisa is killed, and their perpetrators go unpunished, a section of moderate Hindu support is chipped away. There is no denying, there is selectivity in media coverage of events. May be certain events catch public imagination more. Recently, a girl was raped and set fire. She died in hospital. We did not hear much hue and cry. But, criminals were arrested. No one marched with tricolor to demand their release.

It is the job of our chosen leaders to assuage people’s fear. It is their job to apply balm on hurt psyche of citizens and heal the communal divide. Brushing aside of such incidents as criminal act may not help. Raucous debates, where statistics are thrown on crimes committed by one community vis a vis another, only alienates sensible people. What good is development statistics, when one community is pitted against the other? Point scoring spree on TV debate looks as appalling as a brawl in funeral procession. Please understand nation is mourning death of an eight year old. Powers that be, understand and appreciate the value of compassion, kindness and empathy, before you are swept away by deluge of public anger.

Fifth column: Hindutva against Hindus?

Farmer Distress, IPL Match and Political Posturing

Two superstars of South Indian film industry, took decision to join politics of Tamil Nadu. Mr. Kamal Hassan has formed his party and named it as Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM). Whereas, Mr. Rajnikanth has only made his intention clear but not officially formed his party yet. Both superstars of Tamil film industry have an army of their followers in India and abroad. Can these stars transfer their silver screen followers into political arena?

It is natural that new politician will try to catch on emerging issues to consolidate their impression on voters. What is more appropriate than raising issue of farmer distress and farmer suicide in Tamil Nadu. It is not surprising that both Mr. Kamal Hassan and Mr. Rajnikanth expressed solidarity with farmers agitating for formation of Cauvery Management Board. Formation of this board will facilitate sharing of water of Cauvery river between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka states. In the absence of proper water sharing farmers in Tamil Nadu are facing water shortage. Many are committing suicide unable to payback debt when their crop fail due to lack of water. Both, Mr. Kamal Hassan and Mr. Rajnikanth demanded that Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket competition should be postponed or not played at all in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, till farmer distress is resolved. It was argued that by postponing IPL, pressure may be exerted on central government to resolve water sharing issue.

Undoubtedly, farmer distress is a serious issue. However, as Mr. Swaminathan Aiyer argues, farmer suicide in Tamil Nadu is not unusually high. Over the years number of suicide related death has come down18241 in 2004 to 11,370 deaths in 2016. Mr. Aiyer argues that suicide rate is three times higher among unemployed people outside farm sector. In Tamil Nadu as many as 148 girls commits suicide per one lakh people, a number which is ten times higher than farm suicide rate.

Without underming plight of farmers, it is difficult to understand how issues related to farmer can be resolved by stopping IPL matches? IPL is run by BCCI. By blocking IPL how will pressure be put on central government? Besides, IPL creates job opportunity for Indian cricketers, many accessory business opportunities crop up as IPL happens. Shutting down all such job related opportunities would create more joblessness. Instead of stopping IPL, why not billionaire actors Rajni Kanth and Kamal Hassan give their personal wealth up, live with farmers and try to assuage farmer distress? Why does Mr. Rajnikanth not stop release of his next film – Kabali? Or better, transfer proceeds from his film earning to alleviation of farmer distress?

Farmer distress is in India is due to outdated farming practices. No one talks about  making farming efficient, improved water storage for tough time, use of drip irrigation and use of crop that is less water intensive. Almost everyone talk about loan waiver, a short term solution.  For many many years farmers have been suffering. Strange only since 2014 the issue is being highlighted.

 

Resource

  1. https://thewire.in/149054/drought-tamil-nadu-farmers-deaths/
  2. https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/ipl-matches-in-chennai-an-embarrassment-during-cauvery-protest-rajnikanth/310721
  3. https://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Swaminomics/farmer-agitations-reflect-clout-more-than-distress/

Five Years Jail Sentence for Killing a Deer!

Bolywood’s bad boy Salman Khan finally got a conviction for killing an endangered black buck in Rajasthan in 1998. Co-accused of Salman Khan, were let off for lack of evidence. Judge wanted to make an example out of Salman Khan because of his fan following, because of his stardom. Idea was, so I thought, if a famous person like Salman Khan can be convicted and sent to jail for killing an endangered wildlife, then common people would be more fearful of the law.

Salman Khan has been embroiled in one controversy or other. Other than killing black buck, Salman Khan had allegedly ran over people sleeping on pavement in Mumbai, under influence of alcohol. Salman Khan had also barged into apartment of his ex-girlfriend, Aishwariya Rai, some say he also physically assaulted her. There is no doubt in my mind that Salman Khan must pay for the consequences of his action. Conviction in black buck killing may be the first step. No matter how much money is riding on his shoulders. No matter how many humanitarian work he does. No matter how good a human being Salman Khan is.

Salman Khan was fined Rs. 10, 000 and a jail term of five years, for killing a black buck. I find both penalty of 10, 000 rupees to be ridiculously low and punishment of 5 years in jail to be unusually harshFi. A fine of 10,000 rupees is nothing for a person like Salman Khan. He probably spends more money per day on his pets. By contrast, a jail term of five years for killing a black buck is also way too much. Consider the following two cases:

Sonali Mukherjee was a young beautiful 18 year old girl in 2003. She was living in

sonali

Dhanbad, Jharkhand. Three men, Tapas Mitra, Sanjay Paswan, and Brhmadev Hazra, poured acid on her face one night, while she was asleep on the roof of her house. These men thought Sonali to be arrogant and must be taught a lesson. The incidence had turned Sonali’s life upside down permanently. All her family savings was spent fighting court case. Desperate and destitute, she asked presidential permission to commit suicide. In 2014, more than a decade after her ordeal had started, Sonali was given a grade III clerical position in Bokaro Deputy Commissioners office, by Jharkhand government. Today, Sonali is married and has a child.

Men who disfigured Sonali, a young girl with a bright future ahead of her, were sentenced to nine year in jail. They secured bail by appealing high court, came out. These men, did not even spent their term in jail, lead a normal life outside, while Sonali and her family suffered. Contrast this with Salman Khan’s five year for killing a blackbuck.

My second example is about Aruna Shanbaug. Aruna was not as lucky as Sonali.

Aruna

A nurse in King Edward Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, Aruna was engaged to be married. Of course fate had a different idea. One day, Aruna Shanbhag had the misfortune of scolding a ward boy. Angry ward boy, Sohanlal Walmiki, attacked Aruna while she was changing to go home for the day. Aruna was raped, strangled with a chain and left to die. Her body was discovered next morning, almost 12 hours later. Aruna did not die, she went into coma instead, and remained in coma for 42 years, from 1973 till 2015.

Sohanlal, was sentenced to two consecutive seven year sentences. He served his terms, changed his city, got married and lived a normal life. All the while, Shanbhag remained in coma.  Reports suggest Sohanlal has been repenting his act and his remaining life is a penance. But consider this, Sohanlal made a vegetable out a vibrant human being and spent 14 years in jail,  while Salman Khan killed a blackbuck and got 5 years.

 

  1. http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2016/dec/21/jharkhand-acid-attack-victim-sonali-mukherjee-becomes-mother-shares-joy-with-husband-family-1551689.html
  2. Indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/kem-nurse-aruna-shanbaugs-assailant-is-alive-tired-of-memories-i-want-to-die/

Psychographic Voter Profiling and End of Innocence for Indian Electorate

Psychographic profiling is a technique where people are profiled based on their behavioural pattern. Two people born with similar family background, and brought up in similar environemnt, may still display different personality traits with respect to value, attitude, interest etc. Market researchers have long tried to identify, understand and if possible, quantify number of people with certain traits. Such a profiling may help them to arrive at a strategy to create a market for their products and eventually sell them.

More innovative business groups have expanded scope of psychographic profiling technique to identify people who vote in certain way. In the process societal fault lines are identified along religious, ethnic and caste lines. Dormant fears of people are identified, and potential voters are messaged in a subliminal manner to arouse their base instincts and influence their decision making. One such company is Strategic Consulting Limited (SCL) which later became Cambridge Analytica. Foot print of Cambridge Analytica is found in bitterly fought election campaigns in the US, UK, Kenya, Nigeria to name a few. Almost all the campaigns were fought on  bitter divisive agenda where one community was pitted against other. Peoples fear and societal fault lines were explored and exploited.

Evidence has emerged that SCL and Cambridge Analytica had set up base in India. Did Cambridge Analytica influence Indian voters? If yes, for which party and when?  Congress party has blamed BJP for engaging the services of Cambridge Analytica before 2014 general election. On the other hand, BJP pointed finger at Congress party. Interestingly, both parties had rejected any engagement with Cambridge Analytica. However, the following evidence emerged :

It must be understood that statement of Christopher Wyllie does not absolve BJP of any association with Cambridge Analytica. More so, when Mr. Wyllie has claimed that JDU, an alliance partner of BJP in Bihar state, had engaged services of SCL. However, at this moment assertions of congress party spokespeople and its president, that congress party had never used services of Cambridge Analytica, stands exposed.

More I read about electioneering strategy employed by Cambridge Analytica in Kenya and Nigeria, I see uncanny resemblance to some recent Indian elections. It is possible Gujarat was a test case to be expanded to all over India? In Kenya and Nigeria, elections were fought on agenda where one community was pitted against other. Compare this to election strategy in Gujarat, where electorate was divided into segments of Patel, OBC, Muslims and others. Misinformation was spread on GST, demonetisation etc. Leaders visited temples and mosques. Church leader exhorted followers not to vote for certain party. There was a spring in the steps of so far reticent and uncomfortable political leader. All this, though no one has admitted, suggest clear imprint of a well designed and defined strategy. Take it forward in upcoming Karnataka election, a similar approach is being employed. Voters are being fragmented along religious lines.

Beyond politics of congress and BJP, broader question is what is wrong if a political party takes external advice to target its voters? Besides, every party tries to induce voter by promising job reservation, protection, cheaper food etc. Such a promise is generic and global. By profiling voter population, one can design custom made promise. Such a promise is harmless, provided, ofcourse, targeting does not arouse inherent basal instincts like fear, hate, jealousy in target population and create division.

A second important issue is how the data being acquired. Does a person know that he / she is being profiled? Even when a visitor to a site gives his / her permission for further processing of data, does he really understand the implication of such a consent? Does the person know if his / her personal information is going out of country, if it is changing hands, if it is being sold for commercial benefit? Data mined by Big Data companies may have the potential of using against an individual and community, whereby a population may be nudged towards buying certain products or to vote in a certain way. In a divisive setting, our caste, community, religious and linguistic identities may assume primacy over our Indian identity.

We know that caste based data was collected in India, may be to reach voters better by selecting right candidate or may be to exploit fault lines.  We still do not know if Indian voters were influenced by selective messaging or not. From now on, we should be wary of clicking on App buttons on social media space. We may inadvertently end up surrendering information which has the potential to be used against us. It appears, Indian voter has lost its innocence.

References

  1. visionone.co.uk/psychographic-profiling/
  2. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/obama-campaign-use-tactics-cambridge-analytica/
  3. http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-40792078
  4. https://www.reuters.com/…cambridge-analytica…/what-are-the-links-between-cambrid…
  5. https://www.cnbc.com/…/cambridge-analytica-and-its-role-in-kenya-2017-elections.ht.
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/…/cambridge-analyticas-ruthless-bid-to-sway-the-vote-i…
  7. https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/11630-congress-talking-cambridge-analytica-create-buzz-around-rahul
  8. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/whistleblower-ca…indian…/63515489.cms

 

Technology Can Remove Corruption

I was reading this article on Sunday Times of India. One gentleman, Venkat Iyer, had to visit  Tehsildar’s office twenty six times to get a certificate declaring him to be a farmer. This certificate only entitles him to be a farmer. It is not a position of profit. Yet, he had to travel 26 times to meet local government officials to get his certificate. Every time he had spend 100 rupees of his own money. A total of 2600 rupees.

Question obviously comes, why does all the required documents, all counters at different stages of progress not mentioned in an idiot proof manner in the local office and on the net? Obvious answer is more the confusion, greater is the chance to make money. As Mr. Venkat Iyer says, most people do not visit 26 times, they simply pay up.

I had a similar experience a few years before, when I went to register my flat in Gurgaon. Fortunately, I had gone in a group with a representative of my builder. As I stood confused in the crowded chaotic room, I wondered how I would have fared if I went there on my own. May be I also would have been forced to pay a bribe to get my flat registered or keep on coming back till I had mastered the mystery of each counter.  On paper everything was transparent, computerised and online. But no one knew, except of course our intrepid representative from builder, which counter to approach first with which document.

One gentleman, not related to our group, had raised a voice about confusion. He was immediately shut up by some people positioned in key locations about how good the system was. May be he would have been beaten up, if he persisted with his protest for long. All this in the middle of Gurgaon district court.

I this context, I recall my experience in nineties before cell phone became ubiquitous. Those days we had to pay a visit to all powerful MTNL line men to get our landline phones fixed. This local supervisor was all powerful. He could assign person A’s line to person B, for a price, so that person B would make a long distance call and bill person A had to foot the bill. Then came cell phone revolution. Initially everyone grumbled. How cell phones were meant only for the rich and elite.  How cell phones owners showed their arrogance of money by flaunting their gadget. How a ringing cell phone disturbed an ongoing important meeting. Yet, today India has one of the highest density of cell phones. From my boss to my maid, all have cell phone. Cell phone companies have come up with a variety of plans to suit each and every budget and pocket. Today, my maid and the richest Indian Mukesh Ambani gets the same service, only their handsets differ. I do not have to beg a junior officer to have my landline fixed. Because I have alternative.

 

I think technology can make a lot of difference to improve life of common citizens. Only vested interest groups oppose access to technology, because it makes their nefarious business opportunities obsolete.

Padmavat, A Regressive Film?

After a lot of protest, threat mongering, some violence and vandalism, Padmavati was finally released in UP, Haryana and rest of India. In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh film was not released. States where movie was released saw footfall of viewers. So much so, in the first week of release, film is believed to have grossed 149 crore rupees.

Despite popular appreciation, the film still faced attack. This time from a member of film fraternity. Ms. Swara Bhaskar, known for her left leaning feminist outlook, wrote a very scathing letter to Mr. Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Ms. Bhaskar described the film to be regressive, a film that glorifies jauhar and Ms. Bhaskar felt she was reduced to a vagina. In the furious debate that followed, many supporters of Ms. Bhaskar’s point of view also argued that glorification of jauhar indicates a patriarchal mindset. A woman is being denied her right to life after being raped by a man. By glorifying jauhar, we are potraying women to be weak who were not courageous enough to be captured and tortured.

While Ms. Bhaskar is entitled to her opinion. Was Ms. Bhaskar angry at escapades and infatuation of Alauddin Khilji with women or was she angry with Bhansali that he had shown jauhar? It is important to understand that Mr. Bhansali is telling a story. If the story writer claims a lead character embraced fire to protect her honor, Mr. Bhansali cannot change the story line.

I think, there is some confusion between jauhar, sati and rape. It must be clarified that jauhar used to happen in medeval India. Rajput women would jump into fire to avoid being captured by invading army. When a decision to commit jauhar is made, most likely no male member of woman’s family is alive. Woman risked being captured and used as sex slave in the harem of conqueror. As per historical documents several jauhars had happened at Chittor and Ranthambhor royal families in 14th and 16th centuries. There might have been  a few other jauhars in other parts of India.

It will be unfair to brand ladies committing themselves to Jauhar as cowards. It would take a lot of courage for anyone to walk or jump into blazing fire. Compared to Jauhar, it may be much easier to submit to your conquerors. Many others had chosen to do the same. 

In contrast to jauhar, sati used to be a practice where a woman would join her husband in funeral pyre. In many cases, relatives of the woman used to persuade her to commit sati to grab her family property and wealth. Raja Ram Mohar Roy had fought agains thte practice of sati. The practice was made into a criminal offence during British rule. In modern India it is a crime to practice sati.

While sati can be said to be coercive, jauhar used to be a self made decision. Question remains was it a right decision? Should a woman not chose to live rather than embracing fire? I think, every individual should have right to end his or life at a point when it is felt death is better than living a life of dishonor. A similar debate also happened to free Ms Aruna Shanbhag from her body, that was in a state of coma for nearly three decades. Indian laws do not permit mercy killing, but a few mature democracies in the world allow mercy killing. In ancient India people at a certain stage in life will renounce society and live a life of ascetic and wait for death. Even today members of Jain community embrace death voluntarily. At the end of the day it is my life, I should have some say how I live and if I do not want to live. It may be difficult to understand psychology of people in medieval India using standards of 21st century.

 

References

  1. At The End of Your Magnum Opus… I Felt Reduced to a … – The Wire https://thewire.in/218456/end-magnum-opus-i-felt-reduced-vagina/

  2. Jauhar – Wikipedia  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jauhar

  3. https://occassionalmusingsblogpost.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/whose-life-is-it-anyway

Zee Jaipur Literature Festival

This year I attended Jaipur Literature Festival, also known as Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, this year. This festival happens every year, for five days from 24th Jan till 29th Jan. Festival organisers are Mr. William Dalrymple, Mr. Sanjay Roy, and Ms. Nandita Gokhale.Festival venue is Diggy Palace, an old haveli on Tonk Road. It has been converted to a hotel and festival happens in the premises of this haveli. A few guests also stay there.

At Diggy palace, literature festival happens in five venues – Front Lawn, Charbagh, Mughal Court, Baithak and Samvad. Each venue can hold at least 200 people, may be more. In each venue eight discussions / lectures of one hour duration take place, along with audience interaction, from 10am till 7 pm. Eight lectures multiplied by five venues multiplied by five days. A total of 200 discussions / lectures are delivered by eminent guests from fields which include academics, writers, poets, film personalities, politicians, members of civil society even scientists with flair for writing. All venues remain packed from morning till evening. First hour of the festival from 9 am to 10 am remains dedicated to live performance artists playing Indian classical music.

One can register for the festival by logging into the festival website. One can book a hotel through website of the festival. Different hotels suitable to different pockets are listed on the site. It is important to register twice, once for hotel booking and second time to register for the festival. Registration to festival is free. Of course, one can also register as a delegate by paying fee. A delegate may have access to speakers for a more intimate conversation. Because the festival does not charge any entry fee, many students from Jaipur and around visit the venue. Most days, venue is chock a bloc with young people milling around the venue. According to statistics, nearly 60% visitors to the festival are students. Hope these people imbibe knowledge and wisdom of eminent people who participate in the festival.

While delegates get to eat lunch in festival cafeteria, common participants have to buy tea, coffee, snacks and meals. Cash does not work in festival venue. Every one that buys food have to use cash card by depositing money. Cash card can be refunded to get back balance. A whole variety of foods ranging from Rajasthan kachori to chicken Tikka roll is available for purchase. So are Belgian waffles and filter coffee or Masala tea. Participants also can purchase gifts using their credit cards.

From New Delhi one can avail Ajmer Shatabdi for up and down journeys. Journey takes around five hours. Another superfast train is double Decker Jaipur-Sarai Rohilla express, which also takes around five hours to cover the journey. Once in Jaipur, travel is easy because one can dial Ola cab, and auto. Interested tourists can also avail Ola bike service. Ola cabs go by map and fare is more reasonable and honest, compared to private auto / cabs. One should be little careful about choosing right hotel. The one I selected was not a great one. But, fortunately I spent most of my time at the festival venue.

I enjoyed my two days at the Jaipur Literature Festival. I had the good fortune to listen Pico Iyer, Lisa Randall, Tridip Suhrid, Dipanka Gupta, Rohan and Sudha Murthy, Ashok Bajpayei, Hamid Karzai, Nandita Das and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, among others.  It was an invigorating experience to be aware of raging debates in our society. It is a great forum to create better citizens of tomorrow. I wish to go back next year for five days.

Padmavat Protest : Blurred Line Between Fact and Fiction

Recently, I was returning from Jaipur. At 5 am in the morning, I saw Mr. Lokendra Kalvi, supreme leader of Karni Sena, at the railway station. He was coming to Delhi NCR region. We travelled in the same compartment. I sat a few seats away from Mr. Kalvi. Despite his age, Mr. Kalvi was standing ramrod  straight. He had confident stride and was self assured. A few people came to touch his feet in the platform. He was gracious to bless them in Indian style and talked to them. Inside the train, when ticket checker asked for an identity, Mr. Kalvi did not throw his weight around, showed his papers. In general, I found Lokendra Kalvi to be a reasonable man who was at peace with himself.
Now from the deeds of Karni Sena in recent times, it is hard to explain with a leader like Mr. Kalvi, how can position of Karni Sena be so unreasonable? Time and again group members have been found to shout out opposition in TV debates, threaten actors and directors of film with physical violence, vandalise public property in defiance of Supreme Court order, stone a bus full of school children and try to set it on fire. To top it all, group had hired a lawyer in Mr. A P Singh to Singh virtues of Rajput pride and Rajput women like Rani Padmavati. It must be remembered that it is the same Mr. A P Singh, who had represented rapists in Nirbhaya rape and murder case. After losing the case in the supreme court, Mr. Singh had famously claimed, “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.” It is ironical that Karni Sena has chosen a misogynist to sing virtues of Rajput women.
Till date, I have not understood what is the objection of Karni Sena towards Padmavat(i).
Is this antipathy is rooted in a sense of personal affront to Mr. Kalvi, that director and producer did not consult him while writing the script? Mr Kalvi had declined to watch the movie. He was seen to comment what would I say about a movie. I do not even understand English language. It seems there is a sense of hurt in being ignored. But no one is admitting such a thing.
Alternatively, is the outrage represents a more global affront to Rajput pride and sentiments? Without going into arguments around existence of Rani Padmavati and benevolence of Alauddin Khilji, it has been reported from time to time that Rajput Karni Sena is angry about  a dream sequence between Rani Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji. The scene it was believed to have show a romantic affair between Khilji and the queen.  Director had denied existence of such a scene. Even if the scene is there in the film, it is Alauddin’s dream and not that of Rani Padmini. Can a person not have a dream about subject he desires and can a director not take liberty to think of such a sequence?
There was a discussion on a dance sequence in the film. Rajput groups have claimed their women, let alone queens, do not dance in open court like that shown in the film. We do not know how Rani Padmavati acted more than 800 years before. Rani Padmavati is eulogised for her bravery and her desire to die than to give up her honour. Still, unlike Meera Bay, another queen from the same lineage a few generations later, Rani Padmavati was no saint. Could a queen not dance in inner palace in the presence of ladies? Can a director not take such a liberty to show a sequence?
In the movie Rajput king and people have come out looking good. Rajputs have been shown to defend their fort and honour but eventually lost. This is history. We cannot change this history. But we can act and behave in such a way that future historians discuss us in a better light.
As a sign of sanity and apparent maturity, Karni Sena has decided to make a film on mother of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The idea being, if mother of Rajput people is being insulted by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Karni Sena would insult Bhansali’s mother. I find the move childish because for a successful film, one has to have a target audience that may be able to enjoy or relate to sequence of events. Life of Mrs. Leela Bhansali is otherwise indescript. Why would anyone like to watch it? But that is Karni Sena’s choice. They should resort to doing anything they feel like in a peaceful manner
Meanwhile, I think our governments have a lot to learn how to uphold rights of people who cannot defend themselves from organised gangs like Karni Sena and many other similar groups. If we start taking objection to every scene and sequence in movie or a story, then in a culturally rich and diverse nation like India no one can make a movie on the life of a personality from past. Along the same line, in the west, the move “Last Temptation of Christ” had shown fight of Jesus Christ with lust among other things. This  movie was released all over the world. Only in France there was an explosion where 13 people were injured. In rest of the world, film went on peacefully.

All Pervasive Duplicity

I am stuck by double standard displayed by left and left leaning civil society groups. Assault and murder of Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan, Junaid and Afrazul, were horrible and repulsive. No amount of rationalisation can justify such acts. Killers should be punished in the harshest manner possible. I agree and accept every life is equally important. No one should be bullied for their personal choices. Loss of everylife must be mourned. Life and liberty cannot be measured in terms of statistics.

The same logic, however, was deserted on the issue of triple talaq. It was put forward that only a miniscule number of Muslim women get instant divorce. Should every life of a Muslim women not be equally important, irrespective of her marital status?

It was argued who will take care of a Muslim woman, if their husband is jailed for issuing instant divorce? More important question, never ever raised in 70 years, what used to happen to a divorced Muslim woman and her kids when man used to walk out? Why sudden concern?

Then the eternal dilemma why not address issues of Hindu women, specially those who stay in old age homes in Varanasi and Vrindavan? Problem is some Hindu widows renounce society and live alone in old age is search of their spiritiual quest. Without denying there are many women who are deliberately abandoned by their kin. It must be remembered that such a Hindu practice is social in nature not bound by religious diktat. Unlike the practice of triple talaq, as claimed by preachers, banning a Hindu practice will not hamper Hindu dharma. So why equate an apple with an orange?

Some politicians have even brought marital status of prime minister into debate. It is true, Mr. prime minister did not lead a married life. But his wife was free to seek a divorce and marry anothr person of her or her family’s choice. She chose a life of her choice, that is to stay single. How is this situation related to women who are pronounced to be divorced by uttering talaq thrice?

I think many civil society and political party organised protests are motivated less by plight of victims, and more by deep antipathy to prime minister and ruling party.