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Posts Tagged ‘Politics

Signing petitions for Anna Hazare

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Today I read two emails and two facebook updates asking me to sign a petition to the Indian government supporting Anna Hazare’s fast unto death against corruption. I did add my signature, but as I looked on with amazement at the swelling list of signatories, I started wondering how useful this whole act will be.

Consider a hypothetical case where a man regularly beats his wife. His neighbours decide to petition him saying “Dear Mr. Wife-beater, Please stop beating your wife. We want to have a neighbourhood free of wife-beating”. Will such a petition stop him? I seriously doubt it. More likely that he will tear the letter up and probably vent his anger at his intrusive neighbours by beating his wife some more. Now suppose the petition had said “Dear Mr Wife-beater, We know you beat your wife. Stop it now or we will report you to the police.” This would have probably made the wife beater think about how efficient the police force is, how serious his neighbours are and whether it is worth the risk of continuing his practice of beating his wife. If the petition said “Mr. Wife-beater, Stop beating your wife or the next time you step out of your house, all of us will kick the s**t out of you.”, he would probably reform the fastest, because he perceives the most danger (personal injury) coming from those with the grievance (neighbours) instead of an agent far removed (the police).

The most powerful component of a petition is therefore the consequences that arise from ignoring it. If there are no consequences, the petition might as well be toilet paper. So what dire consequences can the citizens of India threaten their government with? For all its faults, the Indian political setup offers Indians the extremely potent weapon of voting their politicians out of power. I have met many intelligent, educated, well-intentioned Indians who complain bitterly about the corruption and state of affairs in India and get eerily close to cardiac arrest during their fervent discourse. However, an overwhelming majority among these have never voted in their lives and don’t have plans to vote in the future. Those most capable of shouldering responsibility for long term decisions are therefore eschewing it, while those least suited are turned into king makers. I may be (horribly)wrong, but I will stick my neck out and say that a significant percentage of the petition signatories will lie in this category of non (conscientious) voters. We therefore have a toothless petition whose only function is to create the illusion of action.

Most of the non voters are extremely cynical of the voting process due to the well cultivated vote banks etc., but then there is no reason to be optimistic about petitions as well. Choosing to petition rather than vote is like being given a choice of cruise missiles or a teaspoon to fight a war and choosing the teaspoon. Breaking vote banks will take a while, but it is a better and more noble goal to focus effort on. Maybe a citizen driven vote bank, as proposed by Atanu Dey is the answer, but it hinges on the assumption that all voters capable of taking the long-term view make it a point to vote.

I am not suggesting that Anna Hazare is wasting his time. His act is commendable. He is investing time and effort and undergoing physical hardship for something that will probably not benefit him personally to a large extent. He has my respect. Anyone who joined him in the fast or attended a meeting in his support or is a conscientious voter also has my respect. They are signalling their desire to act and that they are willing to give up money, time or comfort to push their case against corruption. If I were a corrupt politician, I would be mildly worried. Anyone whose only contribution to Indian politics has been signing the odd online petition by filling an email address into a website and pressing “send” need to reconsider their position. Unless they plan to vote regularly and conscientiously and hold the government’s feet to the fire, Anna Hazare’s work is pointless and no number of online petitions will change that fact.

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Written by clueso

April 8, 2011 at 12:54 am

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The science and politics of CO2

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Here is a nice article in the NY times about the origins of the research on atmospheric Carbon dioxide levels and where things are at the moment.

I found it massively interesting and informative. Hoping you will do too.

Written by clueso

December 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm

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Indian elections.

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India just finished yet another of those gigantic exercises called elections. The logistics are quite impressive, given that there should be facilities for tha gigantic voter pool across such a huge land should be able to vote. The most impressive is the speed with which the counting is done, thanks to the electronic voting machines.

The Congress yet again will form the government and this time it appears that it may have more control over the house by dint of their large haul of seats and the fact that they should not have to form too many complicated coalitions. The best thing that came out of this election is that the communist parties and all the other regional lowlife which preys on caste and region politics took a bit of a beating. Hopefully this signifies that the people are moving away from petty issues that may seem good in the short term, but are most debilitating in the longer term.

I was half expecting the BJP to romp home this time, but in a way I am happy they did not. I am definitely lukewarm towards the BJP because they seem to be a bit too cosy with organisations such as the RSS and VHP, which are currently degenerating into nothing more than bands of thugs. Other weirdos like Varun Gandhi and his inflammatory speeches does nothing to help their cause, neither do those who attack patrons of pubs. Hopefully the BJP will distance itself from these hoodlums and promote a more inclusive image in the next election. I am sure people will be quick to point out that the Congress does not have too clean a record on the communal front, but the Hindutva ideas are too central to BJP’s current image and that aint a good thing.

It remains to be seen what happens in the next five years….

Written by clueso

May 18, 2009 at 10:46 pm

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“The final Solution” on the Gujarat riots.

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This Saturday afternoon was spent in watching the movie documentary “The final solution” by Rakesh Sharma, which I obtained from a blog titled Kalabaaz. It was not the most pleasant way to spend part of the weekend, but it definitely was thought provoking.

I will not claim that the movie tells us what “really” happened in Godhra and Gujarat, as the whole matter is a bit too complicated for me to decide what reality was from some newspaper articles and a documentary. It has interviews of people who were affected by the riots, some recording of hate filled speeches and rallies by the VHP and other goons and some more interviews of people who lost their family members in the burning of coach S/6 of Sabarmati express in Godhra. What the movie does accomplish is to expose the scary face of Hindu fundamentalism, which I find as revolting and dangerous as its Islamic, Christian or any other religious fundamentalism there is around.

It cannot be denied that Islamic rulers have in the past targeted people of other religions because they did not follow Islam. It is also undeniable that the current mood of fighting fire with fire and launching a campaign of hate against Muslims is not the right way to go. If people set about avenging every act of violence in history, we would probably still be gassing the Germans, shooting the Japanese, colonising the British and the French and nuking the US. We will have the ex-lower castes warring with the higher ones and the women warring against the men, in short, we would be in a huge mess. It may sound flippant of me to sit around and ask people to forgive and forget when I have not undergone the horrors they have, but nevertheless, I feel it is necessary to have more directed action towards curbing violence than having a bunch of armed people running around like headless chickens slaughtering anyone who comes in their path. Islamic terrorism must be countered by hitting the terrorists and hitting them hard, but not while targeting the Muslim corner shop owner who probably does not care two hoots about religious conversion and would just want to go about his business. The ideal would be a nation built with laws that do not favour any particular religion and people should either follow the laws or if they do not like them, then they should be free to leave and go wherever they want.

This new brand of Hindu fundamentalism is scary because it is a bunch of people with swords and more testosterone than brains. The people who have the brains sit in the political office and make speeches inciting the rest of the testosterone filled crowd to go and do their bidding. The result is that we have the 9/11 attacks, incidents in Godhra and when religion no longer provides enough mileage, the MNS “standing up” for the Marathi speaking people in Mumbai. Hindu fundamentalism is scary because for Hinduism there is no concept of conversion. Caught in an authoritarian Hindu state, you are either a Hindu or you are in trouble, with no choice of conversion to save oneself.

The film has a short section in which Hindu and Muslim men have a go at each other (verbally of course) on what ails each other’s communities and what should be done about it. The discussion shows that there are issues with both parties and it is impossible to say that only one of them is to blame. The civilised way would be that the leaders of the two communities to take an active role in finding the bones of contention and trying to resolve the differences, by improving their own communities and by cooperating with the other party to remove prejudices. They would encourage people to get educated, or push for education facilities where they are not available. They should encourage people to think for themselves instead of blindly following the hate mongers. They should also play down parts of the scriptures that promote violence and subjugation and put in in perspective that maybe that enthusiasm was acceptable in the dark ages but not now. That is the only way I see this whole problem going away. Unfortunately, the leaders in question are probably themselves filled with hatred and they merely transfer the hatred to the testosterone filled idiots who then go around waving saffron/green flags and feeling important. They play up the differences instead of erasing them and fracture the electorate, enabling them to hold on to power. Uptil sixty years ago, the British had the same divide and rule policy and it is quite a shame to see it still being used with such success. Religion and casteism has been such a huge success for dividing the Indian people that the thought does creep into one’s mind that maybe the policy of the early Chinese communist government of banning religion is a smart way to go. But then, can’t expect the politicians to give up their cash cow so easily can we?

The scariest part of the movie was the short interview with a young boy in the Shah Alam refugee camp who witnessed his relatives being murdered during the riots. This boy wants to be a soldier when he grows up, so that he can avenge his family by killing the Hindus. He is ripe for picking as a future Jihadi and one can almost feel the glee of the recruiters for Islamic terrorism when they watch this boy speak. If this boy does grow up to become a terrorist(which I hope he doesn’t), he will not be a product of Islamic aspirations of world domination, but the product of Hindu fundamentalism.

As the movie ends…”In the hope that such madness never recurs”. Also in the hope that the fanatical Hindu zealots never get to run amok again.

p.s For all those interested, the movie can be downloaded from here or can be watched from the Kalabaaz site. In my opinion, it is worth the time downloading this movie, even over multiple sessions if you have a slower net connection. Following a ban from the then BJP government, the Film director Rakesh Sharma had to follow a “pirate and circulate” policy for the film. So point any of your friends to this link, just so that they may get thinking about this whole issue.

Written by clueso

September 22, 2008 at 12:35 pm

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