Archive for the 'Awareness' Category

JNU: why try the students, try media and police for lies and violence

I didn’t write before because it was not clear from conflicting media reports and everyday changing narrative what actually transpired.
Now that we know most of the truth, it is much easier to make up my mind. You need not judge this post based on my political leanings. I have none: I am neither a right-winger or staunch leftist. Perhaps I lean at the center but I am no fence-sitter. I weigh the issue and lean on either side where reason lies. To be honest, I don’t think we live in an age where we can afford to be lazy to blindly follow any ideology. But I digress. You should judge this post purely based on facts and reason.
A concise recap of the events of JNU would be: Students gathered on the eve of death anniversary of Afzal Guru and raised anti-India and pro-Guru slogans. Media blamed one of them with Muslim name to be JEM (Jaish-e-Mohamed) sympathiser. Lawyers beat up one of them. As a result, other alleged ‘anti-national’students went underground fearing their safety. Nation, oh right-wing nationalists, were agog with demands of shutting down entire JNU since it is funded by taxpayer’s money.
1. Is there a case against the students for raising anti-India slogans?
There is NO video evidence of Pro-Pak slogans except in doctored video. There is NO video evidence of JNU students even making pro-Kashmir, Azadi slogans. Witnesses say that there was a Kashmiri group at centre who retaliated in protest of ABVP slogans about Kashmir.
Umar Khalid accepted post-surrender he supported Guru and didn’t believe that latter was terrorist. He made slogans about it. It is Supereme court prerogative to hold him in contempt, but thinking someone innocent is not ”sedition’’. (BTW, AG rejected petition for contempt of court.) Heck, I believe in innocence of Arushi’s parents and speak about it everywhere. If I hold a peaceful protest against the HC judgment, how different is that? Okay, perhaps a bit. My dissent against Arushi judgment is not dissent against Índian state. But, we will come to that later. Though is it much different from RSS/BJP celebrating Godse as hero?
Police FIR is based on not any witness, heck not even their own testimony, but based on footage shown on Zee tv, which has now been known to be doctored. Read how  Zee TV fuelled state action against JNU students. There are some internal JNU investigation listing names of student present and listing slogans raised. It is to be proven if the named students in internal report were indeed the ones who shouted ‘seditionist slogans’and not the outsiders as JNU students/faculty claim. There is debate around that too: 16 out of list (and this list is prepared by the ‘intelligence unit” of Delhi police) of 19 students are not current students of JNU.
So, do we have any case against the students? A very debatable one.
Even if we assume if the accused students did raise slogans. Let’s go over them.
They called Guru’s death a ‘judicial murder’. State’s right to freedom of expression allows that. SC doesn’t want to pursue contempt of court either.
Har ghar mein Afzal. I deem this slogan okay too. It maybe distasteful to ‘nationalists’ but keeping sympathies, even with convicted criminals, is not a crime.
Kashmir ki azadi. I say it is problematic for state but it is understandable since Kashmir is unresolved issue. Though JNU witnesses claim these slogan-raisers weren’t Kanhaiya, Umar or Anirban, the arrested three, but Kashmiris who were outsiders.
Bharat ki barbadi. Celebrating death of CRPF in Maoist struggle. Personally I find these very, very painful and unacceptable. But, these slogans even if proven were raised in the JNU gathering had no intent to violence. So is it really, really sedition? Worth reading Dilip’s article what is it anti-national about shouting Pakistan Zindabad.
2. Media Lied 90% about the JNU students to vilify them in the eyes of nation.
As we know now, Umar Khalid is no terrorist and has no links with any terrorist organisation in any country. Lie number 2: He is not JEM supporter. He didn’t go to Pak. He didn’t make 800 calls to Bangladesh, Pak or Gulf.
Kanhaiya, who people seem to have forgotten, was also framed by the same doctored video as mentioned by police FIR. Heck there is a case against media for willfully misrepresenting the facts! The story was so distorted that a Zee journalist handling the story resigned.  I wish students would sue these channels and these channels should receive show cause notice by Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
3. Police role: No law and Order: Unjust torture/harassment
Police watched as mute spectator while lawyer goons at Patiala House beat up Kanhaiya. He was hurt and he may well be innocent. Forget their protection. Police bothered every Kashmiri student on campus. They interrogated friends of Umar Khalid. They tracked his phone records and hounded all friends, journalists who spoke to him on accusations why didn’t they report Umar. Umar, to be noted, hasn’t been proven a terrorist that you dig into every aspect of his life leaving no privacy.
Would you punish somebody stole bread for assuage their hunger with same intensity as you would punish someone who stole nuclear codes to share with neighboring country? These students merely expressed ideas and dissent and anger without violence. As someone said on Twitter, sledgehammer is being used for the ant.
In nationwide discussion around victimhood of Umar, people are forgetting Kanhaiya’s plight. (Sorry, Kanhaiya and you, Anirban, you don’t have right name to claim credible victimhood even if you are victims – wrong times – but more about that later). First JNU VC allowed police to enter campus to quietly pick up Kanhaiya. Action against him was so swift and bad that there were resignations even in the cadres of ABVP! (VC would wisen up and not allow police on campus and Umar would get a chance to surrender peacefully.) After being beaten up by lawyer goons, Kanhaiya is now in judicial custody for 14 days for raising  ánti-national’slogans, a charge which is yet to be proven. His bail application will be heard on 29th Feb, till then he cools his heels in jail. But, lawyer goon who beat him was arrested and even released. Justice in my India!
Question we should ask ourselves: Are honest, even if angry and distasteful, but peacefully articulated ideas are more harmful than willful lies and violence against individuals?
I would leave you with this disarming video of Umar Khalid, where he doesn’t still claim any victimhood for being a Muslim but raises many valid points.
umar
Photo: Courtesy Scroll.in

Conversations with Bangalore auto driver: A woman’s character

I wrote about a part of my conversation with a Bangalore auto driver. Our conversation meandered from NaMo to Muslim-haters, Rushdie, censorship, in that order.

He brought up Rushdie and how ‘westernized Muslims’ do disservice to religion, leave alone others. I asked if he had read the book. He said he didn’t but he has heard what he wrote about – a parody of Prophet’s life. Unable to resist, I asked what he thought of the ‘satanic verses’.

‘Satanic verses?’ (Later I think if he was just checking what I knew?)

groupI explain. ‘Quran, as I understand, was verbally revealed to Prophet by angel Gabriel (Jibrail as I said to him) in the cave of Hira and it was recorded later by his disciples.

So, before founding of Islam, Meccans worshipped three pagan goddesses. One day Prophet came back from cave and announced that these goddesses were exalted. However, few days later, Prophet retracts these verses that angel Gabriel has informed him that Satan tempted him to utter these verses. Hence, the phrase ‘satanic verses’, right?’

At this point, auto driver is ‘impressed’ with my ‘knowledge’. Even while driving, instead of looking at road, he turns to look back, as if seeing me with new eyes.

‘Yes, those goddesses are Allāt, al-‘Uzzā and Manāt. Prophet had perhaps said it out of his desire to make peace with erstwhile Arabs who worshipped goddesses.’

Continue reading ‘Conversations with Bangalore auto driver: A woman’s character’

Dear PMO: Don’t ‘break’ the Internet

Dear PMO,

Your party has used social media very well for your campaign in this election. Your side campaign project ‘pappu’ was also popular, perhaps even contributing to your victory for who wants to vote for a ‘pappu’. You did leverage the power of Internet and social media. People acknowledged your promise of ‘digital India’ and ‘progressive India’.

Earlier this year, I noticed TRAI took a very good decision in favour of net neutrality. The mobile service providers’ lobby had wanted all over-the-top (OTT) apps such as Whatsapp, Viber, Skype etc to be charged. However, TRAI wisely rejected the proposal. Whatsapp may in future want to monetize and that is okay. At least government didn’t bow to business lobby.

Yet two issues related to Internet and freedom bother me. Two ongoing policy decisions by your government may threaten the very spirit of ‘digital and progressive’ India.

Internet censorship

We hear our Telecom Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, is contemplating how to implement web filters for the country. As Medianama reports, he has been quoted saying: “larger issue of respecting cultural values of the country and sentiments of the Indian society need to be considered and all possible ways and means may have to be devised in this context.”Censorship_wiki

It leaves me speechless. First, I didn’t know our cultural values were under threat. Second, is the perceived need to ‘save cultural values’ more important than the respect for citizen rights? I can’t fathom why a government would want to regulate personal lives of adult citizens. So what if they watch porn? What is this to the government?

A state’s role is to prevent crime and maintain law and order. It is not to maintain ‘cultural values’ as they define it, especially in a diverse country like ours where definition of values are debatable. Does government have any case of porn leading to criminal/civil offenses? Until it is proven so, a blanket ban is infringement of individual rights, and your decision to use web filter to stop porn is arbitrary. (There are more productive/effective ways of preventing violence and rape, tho I notice you didn’t mention it since you were more preoccupied with protection of cultural values.) I won’t get into pros and cons of porn; but I expect any government to respect an individual’s choice to deal with their sex lives. Please don’t impinge on personal liberties of us individuals. Respect our rights and wisdom as adults and spare us the moralizing.

Continue reading ‘Dear PMO: Don’t ‘break’ the Internet’

Unraveling of a ‘What The Black’ Mystery

Ah, I wrote ‘black things I would still like to buy‘ and mentioned that it was part of #WhatTheBlack activity. Now that promo is over, it is time to unravel.

An aside: This reminded me of a dialog (though it is not quite the same thing) from the movie ‘Prestige’: Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.

#WhatTheBlack was an interesting campaign around the theme of colour black which resonated with me, and few small things that indicate beginnings or begin our morning literally. It was an interesting campaign to build a mystery, pique your curiosity just enough to wait for next day’s clues. Frankly I couldn’t; I could have guessed the product. Here are all the ‘clue’ pics:

Day 1 – A black egg, you break it to find a rock, solid chocolate🙂 Egg is symbol of beginnings.

Day1_1Day_1_2

Day 2 – Black newspaper, a thing you begin your mornings with

Day 2

Day 3 – a black tissue paper, a black glass (presumably for coffee) and an empty

Day_3_1

Final unravel – Tada!

This is what the #WHATTHEBLACK product is: COLGATE SlimSoft Charcoal toothbrush.

prize

You can find more about this special toothbrush here.

Book Review: Delhi: 14 Historic Walks

They say, you learn more about a city by walking around.  You walk around Florence, Paris, Munich, Edinburgh and even New York! Delhi, a city I call home and one that is 100 years old this year, is another such city that can be appreciated on walks. ‘Delhi – 14 historic walks’ is a delightful guide book that helps you to accomplish that.

ImageFrankly, this book does not need a book review to extol its virtues. Its back cover lists its merits in simple no-nonsense words in the back cover. However, to do the book and Blogadda’s book program justice, I will first air my views for the record.

I jumped to have this book since I have been on Delhi walks (and none by INTACH to which Swapna Liddle belongs to but that I will come to later). Delhi has a fantastic cultural heritage, but most of us even while living in the city sleep-walk through it. I did.

I think I re-visited even the popular monuments Red Fort, Qutab Minar when I was studying at a college in Delhi, at least a decade after when I first visited those in childhood. That too because I had to take an NRI friend of mine around the city. I haven’t forgotten my ignorance and the embarrassing fact that I was enormously proud that I have never cared enough for these ‘cliche’ places to visit myself. And even if we deign to visit these places, we hardly see/know things. We fail to appreciate the beauty and wonder of it.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Delhi: 14 Historic Walks’

BigBooks Library – A Fantastic Online Book Library Service

My obsession with books is not unknown on this blog. I have at times posted yearly updates about the number of books I have read.

This year – my reading was happily boosted by a lovely online library called Bigbooks in Pune. Now that I have moved to Bangalore, I have further realized how sorely I miss it.

BigBooks has fantastic, affordable service is a fact that was further reinforced when I started comparing it with other online book services in different cities. Some other key differences were – 1. Most online rental libraries have plans that have a cap on number of books you can borrow. All the plans in BigBooks library are for unlimited books. 2. Most libraries will charge you a registration fee and a (refundable) security deposit. However, in BigBooks, none of these are required – you just pay for the plan directly – cheapest one starts at 150 bucks a month.  (Try comparing plans and prices here, here and here.)

I learnt from BigBooks FB page and blog –the owner Rahul Maskara had also started this service in the first place because he realized for even a voracious reader as himself that buying so many books was expensive. What does a reader do to quench their appetite of books – thus, a service was borne out of a need.  He quit his corporate job and plunged into getting this start-up (Rashmi Bansal, are you listening?) onboard keeping the affordability in mind.

For just 150 bucks a month, you can read unlimited borrowings of one book at a time (3-month plan is even cheaper). Believe me; I borrowed one book every day, benefitting from their free pick and drop service. Books would be delivered at my house, at my office as per my convenience. I can’t remember an instance when the transaction was dissatisfying. However, greedy to devour their vast collection, I soon graduated to other plans – two books at a time etc.

Most importantly, their collection of books is one of the best. I am a frequent buyer of books – yet I find it hard to spend money on expensive graphic novels. Most libraries’ understanding of graphic novels is restricted to Archie, Tintin and at best, Asterix. Now, BigBooks has graphic novels ranging from manga writer Osamu Tezuka, Neil Gaimon, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Alison Bechdel and so on. All these comic books are expensive and most of the online rental libraries do not have such books in their collection.

Not only that, they have a wonderful recommendation/request system – just add your request and it is taken care of as soon as possible. Almost all my recommendations even though I was a very new customer and had not even made the first payment – were heard– I got to read all the books I wanted, just as owner Rahul kept assuring that I will.

When new books arrive in the genre of your interest, Rahul even calls you to inform and ask – A new book has arrived, do you want to read it? One might be mistaken that I was a special customer, but truth is they were doing that for almost everyone. Most of friends subscribing the service reported that they were informed and provided choice to add that book to their reading list.

BigBooks library is available in two cities – Pune and Bombay. Go ahead and support this wonderful (and extremely useful) start-up. Try out their service and you won’t be disappointed. (They do have a cheap trial plan as well.)

It is very simple to register. Next steps are to create a queue of books you want to read and then select a plan. For any help, you can call Rahul’s number (also, on the BigBooks Website): +919665401232.

P.S – Rahul, you had told me while I was leaving Pune that you plan to take BigBooks to Bangalore. By a quirk of fate, I have landed up in Bangalore instead of Delhi. Please do bring your wonderful library to Bangalore, I promise to be your first customer in the city.

The Sapling Project: Pune Chapter

This post is an endeavor to make you aware about a Pune initiative called The Sapling Project, which involves planting trees in Pune.


 The idea is to distribute the saplings and encourage participants to plant it at their locations such as at their house, society, institutions or any other place. Idea is to avoid planting it in some park or some common area because in such case participant won’t be able to go and take care of the saplings after they are planted. I know they are right, the white carnation tree I took to work dies on a weekend.)

If it is planted at your house/society, it would be possible to monitor the health and progress of planted saplings.
 
You can find more details about the Sapling Project in Pune on their site here. The Sapling Project is brainchild of two guys, Ranjeet (@ranjeet_walunj) and Satish (@bombaylives), whom I have had opportunity to meet at Bombay.

Please send it across to your friends and spread the word. If you are in Pune and  interested to participate as a volunteer,  please write directly to Libu. His contact details are:

Email: libu.baby@gmail.com
Mobile: 9881460654
Twitter: @libu
 
Hope to see your participation. Thanks! :)

P.S: Venues and timings for The Sapling Project in Pune:

Kalyani Nagar (Jogger’s Park): 7.30-8.15 a.m.
University Camp (Near Jogging Park): 8.45-9.15 a.m.
F.C Road (Near Vaishali, Roopali, near FC Road): 9.30-10.15 a.m.
Law College Road (Lane next to Barista): 10.30 a.m.


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