Monday, November 11, 2019

Pseudo-Experts Failed Pseudo-Seculars!

Excerpted from “Ram Janma Bhumi In High Court–How Pseudo-Experts Failed Pseudo-Seculars!” (pp. 362–385) In “Twisting Facts To Suit Theories & Other Selections From Voxindica”

Imagine a murder trial in progress in a court room. The prosecution introduces a forensic expert whose testimony establishes the time and cause of death. Imagine the defence counsel cross-examining the forensic expert, as part of normal court room procedure. Here is a snatch of the imaginary cross examination:

Defence Counsel: Would you please tell the court doctor, the exact time when the murder was committed and the cause of death?

Forensic Expert: Certainly. It was committed between 3.30 PM and 5.30 PM on the fifteenth of this month. The cause of death was stabbing with a blunt knife.

DC: How could you be so certain?

FE: You know; I was brought in as a forensic expert in this case.

DC: You are a forensic pathologist, then?

FE: No, I am not.

DC: Have you conducted any post-mortem examinations in the past?

FE: I have not conducted any.

DC: Have you conducted any surgeries?

FE: I have not conducted any surgeries.

DC: Are you a surgeon?

FE: No, I am not.

DC: Pardon me doctor, if you are not a forensic pathologist or a surgeon what is your specialty?

FE: I am a physician.

DC: If you are not a forensic pathologist, how did you tell with certainty the time and cause of death?

FE: You see, in the hospital where I work, doctors meet in the canteen during breaks. I was informed by a pathologist colleague who works in our hospital and who has read about the case in the newspapers, about the possible time and cause of death. I have also gone through various newspapers which published details of the case. It was based on these that I am able to tell with certainty, the time and cause of death.

DC: Does it mean that you cannot specify the time and cause of death based on your own study or your own knowledge.

FE: No. But I am a doctor. Based on what I have heard and read, I can tell the exact time and cause of death.

The Defence Counsel could have established that the doctor appeared as a witness in the case only to help his ‘old boy network’. But lengthening the imaginary ‘cross examination’ would test the patience of the reader. The imaginary scene is to help readers appreciate the type of ‘pseudo-experts’ fielded in the Ram Janma Bhumi case and how their testimonies were ripped apart in the cross examination. The pseudo-experts asserted that the mosque was not built on any temple debris and in fact no temple was destroyed, not only in Ayodhya but anywhere in the lands ruled by the Mogul invaders. Even normally reticent judges could not help chastising the witnesses in the case.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Death Penalty: Inconsistent Sentencing, Political Mercy Pleas, Erroneous Convictions. Abolition, A Systemic Correction

Inconsistent Death Penalties

Had the wheels of justice ground faster—instead of at the proverbial snail’s pace—this man would have been hanged by now. The convict from a remote village in the Nanded district of Maharashtra was accused of killing his wife and four children in 2007. The District Sessions Court awarded him death sentence which was upheld by the High Court and the Supreme Court. His review petition was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2012, which it now ‘recalled’ observing that all the courts relied on an ‘extra-judicial confession’ and ‘ignoring medical evidence’. His sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment. (ChoudharyAmit Anand. “SC admits mistake in awarding death sentence, commutes it to life sentence.” The Times Of India. October 2, 2019. https://bit.ly/31SNFSW

In May 2019 the Supreme Court had acquitted six persons whom it sentenced to death ten years before in a case involving dacoity, gang-rape and murder of five persons of a family in Nashik in 2003. The case escalated through the tortuous judicial processes and the Apex court confirmed the death sentences on April 30, 2009. In its latest judgement the Court observed that the accused were

“… from the lower strata of society and are very poor labourers … false implication cannot be ruled out since it is common occurrence that in serious offences, sometimes innocent persons are roped in.” (Mahapatra, Dhananjay. “6 awarded death by SC in 2009, acquitted in 2019”. The Times Of India. May 5, 2019. https://bit.ly/2oVJbwu)

A google search for “SC admits mistake”, prompted by the first report cited above, yielded five results. Here are the remaining three: “SC seeks Centre's reply on plea challenging mandatory death penalty under SC/ST Act” (The Times Of India. May 10, 2019. https://bit.ly/2MmvHBH); “Decade after awarding death, SC commutes sentence to life imprisonment for delay in deciding mercy plea”. (ChoudharyAmit Anand. The Times Of India. February 22, 2019. https://bit.ly/2LUYpuAand “SC reverses man’s death sentence; revives debate on extreme penalty” (Mahapatra, Dhananjay. The Times Of India. November 28, 2018. https://bit.ly/2pTbbRP). All these cases were reported by The Times Of India between November 2018 and October 2019. 

Socio–Politics Of Mercy Petitions

On March 8, 1993, an APSRTC bus from Hyderabad was on its way to Chilakaluripeta in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. In the pre-dawn hours, it was waylaid by two dacoits, Sathuluru Chalapathi Rao and Gentela Vijayavardhan Rao, as it cleared the town of Narasaraopeta and was just twenty kilometres from its destination. The duo brandished deadly weapons and threatened the passengers to hand over their valuables. One of them carried a can of petrol and sprinkled it from the back of the bus to the front entrance. They threatened to set fire to the bus if their demands were not immediately met. Whether some passengers resisted or whether the dacoits panicked was not clear but the duo closed the door and carried out their threat. They set fire to the bus and twenty-three sleeping passengers were engulfed in flames and charred to death. Several others sustained serious burn injuries. The culprits were arrested ten days later and the case culminated in the Supreme Court which upheld the death sentence on August 28, 1996. The Supreme Court judgement which narrated the gruesome details of the crime was reported in the India Kanoon portal: “Gentela Vijayavardhan Rao And Anr vs State Of Andhra Pradesh on 28, August, 1996” (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1517391/). George Fernandes and Rajni Kothari filed a mercy petition. President Shankar Dayal Sharma rejected it. Mahaswetha Devi filed a second mercy petition. The Supreme Court stayed its own sentence in view of the pendency of the mercy plea. Finally, President K. R. Narayanan commuted their sentence.      

 

On August 14, 2004, Dhananjay Chatterjee an ‘impoverished guard’ in a Kolkata building was hanged. Although bearing a Brahmin name, Dhananjay Chatterjee was far from being a member of the Kolkata bhadralok, or intellectual elite…His execution followed a shrill campaign…”, wrote N. Jayaram:  “How India hanged a poor watchman whose guilt was far from established” (Scroll.in. July 21, 2015. https://bit.ly/35d7FSe). An emerging 24/7 news channel added its bit to the shrillness of the campaign. The misfortune of birth status added to Chatterjee’s misery of poverty. He had spent fourteen years in jail before he was hanged. President, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam rejected his mercy plea. However, it must be said in his defence that although the President is vested with the authority to pardon a criminal under Art. 71 (1) (c) of the Constitution, in practice, the President merely follows the recommendation of the Home Ministry. The case did not arouse ‘the quality of mercy’ in the conscience of civil rights activists. No NGO or civil rights group knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court to open it in the small hours to hear a revision plea. No newspaper headlined the next day “And they hanged Dhananjay Chatterjee”! 

 

If the frenzy of misplaced social vigilantism took its toll in Chatterjee’s case it was the political frenzy that impacted the Indira Gandhi assassination case. This is not to say that the assassins did not deserve death sentence. One of the assassins, Beant Singh fired thirty-three bullets into her body. He was killed instantly when her ITBP security guards opened fire. A second assassin Satwant Singh fired twenty-three bullets but was seriously injured in the crossfire with a bullet lodged in his spine. In normal circumstances, his condition would have rendered him ineligible for hanging. A plea to the Supreme Court to allow him to recover was disallowed. A medical team hastily removed the bullet to ‘ready’ him for the hanging. (Bhatnagar, Rakesh. “The accused did not want to be defended”. DNA. October, 30, 2009 https://bit.ly/2Iw5T5c). Ram Jethmalani pleaded in vain that the case against the third assassin, Kehar Singh was flimsy and highly circumstantial and did not ‘prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt’. The President disallowed mercy petitions with utmost dispatch. 

 

The partisan approach of civil rights groups, political parties, state legislatures and the ‘intelligentsia’ in seeking mercy for convicts has not escaped the attention of the Supreme Court. Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was sentenced to death for killing Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in 1995, did not file a mercy plea but the NGO ‘Lawyers for Human Rights International’ sought a review of the trial court verdict. The Punjab state legislature passed a resolution seeking mercy for Rajoana. Similar resolutions were passed by the Jammu & Kashmir legislature in the Afzal Guru case and the Tamil Nadu legislature in the Rajiv Gandhi assassins’ cases. On the other hand, the Court pointed out; poor people like Dhananjay Chatterjee who does not have societal support always got a raw deal with respect to mercy petitions. (“Why wide disparity in treatment of mercy pleas? SC asks” The Times Of India. May 27, 2012. https://bit.ly/31Q51jf). The Supreme Court, however, agreed that there was subjectivity and it was individual perceptions of the judges that decide whether a convict should be awarded death sentence or life imprisonment. (Mahapatra, Dhananjay. “Judges' perception dominant factor in death or life sentence: SC”. The Times Of India. Jan 25, 2011. https://bit.ly/30MffzX).

Abolition, A Systemic Correction

It is the grey areas in the administration of criminal justice that cause these anomalies. If all are equal in the eyes of the law, why was the mercy plea of Dhananjay Chatterjee rejected and the one in the Chilakaluripeta bus burning case entertained? The contrast is stark. A person whose crime might not have been ‘proven beyond all reasonable doubt’ was sent to the gallows but the sentence of the duo who murdered twenty-three people in cold blood was commuted. In the Neeraj Grover murder case (2008) a small time film actress (whom Grover, creative head of Synergy Adlabs was helping to find a foothold in the film industry) and her boyfriend were accused of committing the crime. The duo cut up Grover’s body into 3oo pieces, packed them in gunny bags and was carrying the body to burn it deep in a forest. Mumbai tabloids published other macabre details of the crime and its aftermath. According to one, after the boyfriend stabbed Grover, with the dead body lying in the next room, the duo had sex twice before their ‘next operation’. The actress was sentenced to three years, not for murder but for trying to destroy evidence. She was released by the end of the trial. The boyfriend was sentenced to three years for destroying evidence and ten years for culpable homicide, with both sentences to be run concurrently. In the Naina Sahni murder case (2013) the accused, Sushil Sharma cut up her body and tried to burn the pieces in a restaurant tandoor. He was not awarded death sentence. In the Jessica Lal (2010) and the Priyadarshini Mattoo (2010) cases too no death sentences were awarded. In two ‘high profile’ murder cases in Hyderabad the well-heeled accused, to use an Americanism, ‘walked’.

In an article in the ‘Journal of Law and Criminal Justice’, Arvind P. Bhanu mentioned that fourteen retired judges wrote to the President that “Supreme Court had erroneously given the death penalty to 15 people since 1996”. (“Arbitrariness in Capital Sentencing System: No Disappearance of Furman-Like Challenge”. Journal of Law and Criminal Justice. December 2014, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 187-199). The Law Commission Report on Death Penalty (No. 262, 2015) pointed out that the differences in the quantum of punishment was due to the interpretation of ‘mitigating circumstances’, such as age. According to it, the data collected “substantiate the picture of inconsistent, arbitrary and judge-centric application of the death penalty.” (p.149). The following portion of the report is worth citing verbatim:

“Numerous committee reports as well as judgments of the Supreme Court have recognized that the administration of criminal justice in the country is in deep crisis. Lack of resources, outdated modes of investigation, over-stretched police force, ineffective prosecution, and poor legal aid are some of the problems besetting the system. Death penalty operates within this context and therefore suffers from the same structural and systemic impediments. The administration of capital punishment thus remains fallible and vulnerable to misapplication. The vagaries of the system also operate disproportionately against the socially and economically marginalized who may lack the resources to effectively advocate their rights within an adversarial criminal justice system.” (pp. 223-224)

The report, however, takes into consideration concerns regarding terrorism and makes the following caveat:

“… [C]oncern is often raised that abolition of death penalty for terrorism related offences and waging war, will affect national security. However, given the concerns raised by the law makers, the commission does not see any reason to wait any longer to take the first step towards abolition of the death penalty for all offences other than terrorism related offences. The Commission accordingly recommends that the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism related offences and waging war.” (p. 226)

The inconsistencies and vagaries in the application of law need no further elaboration. It is a systemic failure and needs systemic correction. Is it time the death sentence is abolished for all crimes except terror-related cases? The most compelling argument for the abolition of death sentence is that it is irreversible, even if at a later date fresh evidence surfaces to prove the innocence of the accused. It is also advisable to make the definition of ‘life sentence’ not amenable to subjective interpretation. In serious crimes like homicide, a ‘life sentence’ should mean ‘till the normal end of a life, without remission’. In serious crimes against humanity it may be necessary to avoid philosophical distinctions such as whether it is ‘retributive’ or ‘reformative’. The punishment should be seen only as a ‘deterrent’ till such time the society evolves to a level when a further revision could be considered.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Playing God, Ungodly?

How would it be if it were possible to ‘order’ the birth of a baby girl who would grow to be as beautiful as Venus and as intelligent as Marie Curie? Or the birth of a baby boy who would grow to be as handsome as Adonis and as intelligent as Einstein? How would it be if it were possible to choose the colour of the eyes, hair and skin tone? Does the idea sound outré, utopian? Recent scientific advances indicate that the idea of ‘designer babies’ is neither all that outré nor all that utopian. It is a possibility in the not too distant future. It is the ethics of the issue that should worry mankind. Is genetic engineering ethical or even desirable?

Man ‘created’ angels, gods and goddesses in his own image. It is for this reason they are referred to as anthropomorphic gods. In his ‘creation’ man made gods and goddesses the most beautiful creatures; again beauty being a product of his own imagination. The creation of anthropomorphic gods is but an expression of man’s endless quest to replicate nature or improving upon it. It was an enticing subject that drew artistes and scientists alike. In general the artistes were wary of the dangers of replicating or improving upon nature. Here are a few examples. Mary Shelly’s 1918 Gothic novel ‘Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus’ described the horrors that would result in tinkering with nature. So did Aldous Huxley’s dystopian ‘Brave New World’ (1932) and Ken Follett’s science-fiction ‘The Third Twin’ (1996), but to a less horrific degree.

But the scientists would not be deterred. For as long as the history of science could be traced, maverick – for want of a better word – ‘scientists’ in many nations conducted experiments with the objective of transmuting base metals into gold, to find a universal solvent and to find a potion that would extend longevity. The ‘scientists’ were collectively known as alchemists. Although for long they were dismissed as charlatans and although they did not achieve the objectives they set out to do, their work had advanced science as far as the purification of metals.

In recent times genetic engineering has been focusing on four areas of human development. They are muscle enhancement to improve athletic performance; memory enhancement to improve intellectual performance; growth hormone treatment to improve physical stature and selection of sex and genetic traits of children. The selection of sex is already a reality. It must be noted that gender screening tests are illegal in India. There are several companies in the USA which already offer ‘sex selection’ with certain pre-conditions that would preclude its possible misuse. The process/product is offered to only those couples who have one child and who desire to have a child of the opposite sex to ‘balance their families’.

The theory of eugenics is as old as Aristotle. It appears the fourth century BCE philosopher had suggested that ‘men should tie their left testicles prior to intercourse if they wanted a male child’! In ‘The case against perfection: ethics in the age of genetic engineering’ (2007), Michael J. Sandel discussed both the pros and cons of genetic engineering. As societies evolve, old mores give way to new norms. Sandel cites a character from the 1981 British historical film, Chariots of Fire’. It was the story of two athletes, Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who competed in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Prior to 1924, employing professional coaches for training to compete in amateur sport was scoffed at. It was considered ‘ungentlemanly’. Abrahams defied the custom as he felt that it was just a cover for anti-Semitism. The point being made is that today employing coaches is an accepted norm. In fact it is unimaginable for any athlete to go into high level competitions without a personal trainer.

Much of the opposition to genetic engineering stems from the negative connotations associated with eugenics. The objective of eugenics was to increase the proportion of healthy and intelligent individuals in the general population. Conversely the poor and unhealthy were prevented from conceiving by forced sterilisation. It is generally assumed that forced sterilisations as a measure of eugenics were practised only in Nazi Germany. According to a report published in the website PsychCentral.com, by the 1930s thirty states in the USA had sterilisation laws. Between 1927 when Carrie Buck, the first victim of the Virginia sterilisation law was sterilised and the 1970s, 65,000 Americans with ‘mental illness or developmental disabilities’ were sterilised. When the Buck case reached the Supreme Court, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled:

It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” (See Tartakovsky, Margarita. ‘Eugenics & The Story of Carrie Buck’. July 8, 2018. Accessible from http://bit.ly/2mZHs8Q).

To forestall genetic engineering for ethical considerations amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Scientists believe that the key to finding remedies for diseases like thalassemia and cancer is in genetic engineering.

When the banking industry introduced information technology tools in the 1980s doomsday predictors hollered that it would lead to thousands going out of employment. We live in a world of over the counter (OTC) remedies and food supplements for growth and beauty enhancement. Not an hour passes when we don’t see bamboozling advertisements about them on television. Bariatric surgery and cosmetic surgery for beauty enhancement are fairly common with only the cost being the limiting factor. Would it be the only limiting factor for ‘made to order babies’ too? Or are ethics involved?

Should we in the end accept and live with advances in genetic engineering or heed the warning of Mary Shelly and Aldous Huxley about ‘Promethean hubris’? The last word in the debate is yet to be pronounced!

The article first appeared in TheTimes Of India Blogs 

Monday, September 23, 2019

‘The Fourth Estate’ Not ‘The Almighty’

During much of his current term President Donald Trump had to fight accusations that he had had a secret covenant with the Russians, who helped him rig the 2016 presidential election. There were three prime accusations. The first was that a Russian organisation, ‘Internet Research Agency’ (IRA), which influences poll outcomes through social media campaigns, was deployed to run down his opponent Hilary Clinton and boost his election. The second was more serious and was about a possible hacking of the computers in the Democratic Party election offices by the Russian military intelligence agency, GRU. Had this been proven it would have turned out to be not just Trump’s own ‘Watergate’ but far worse! The third was about ‘obstruction of justice’.

This article is not about whether or not President Trump was guilty or not of the misdemeanours he was accused of but about their treatment by the American media. The accusations levelled by Trump’s political rivals were orchestrated by internationally visible sections of the American media like ‘CNN,’ ‘The New York Times’ and ‘The Washington Post’Times’ journalists won two Pulitzer prizes for the ‘Trump-Russia’ stories!

The US Attorney General William Barr appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate the allegations.  The report Mueller submitted in March this year did not find any substantive evidence to prove the allegations. As Byron York observed in his September 10, 2019, ‘Washington Examiner’ opinion piece


The story did not end there. Some of The New York Times’ readers and its own staff were not happy. York wrote ‘many on the Left faulted [The New York Times] for being insufficiently anti-Trump! At this point, the issue spilled out of the media domain. It is no more about disseminating information or offering comment, however judgemental could it be. It is now more an ethical dilemma, a reflection of the media scene back home in India. Should a media organisation behave like a consumer goods supplier or restaurateur and cater to the tastes of a consumer – assuming a majority of readers the paper caters to are of a certain political leaning – or remain steadfast to an ideal of sticking to the truth? And remain neutral till the issue is settled one way or the other in the appropriate forums? The Times is now caught between the proverbial Scylla and Charybdis of its own making.

The paper conducted an internal town-hall meeting for its newsroom staff to assuage ruffled feelings. It was necessitated because of an uproar over a headline about the president’s alleged ‘racism’ and tweets from the paper’s staff. ‘Slate’ published a transcript of the recording of the Times’ town-hall meeting edited and curated by Ashley Feinberg. The Times’ Executive Editor, Dean Baquet and Publisher A. G. Sulzberger addressed the meeting.

A defensive Baquet seemed to find fault with the readers. He suddenly remembered that it was not the duty of the media to run political campaigns, but as an independent media hold administrations accountable! He pointed out the obvious: 

“They [the paper’s critics who want Trump’s head] sometimes want us to pretend that he was not elected president, but he was elected president.”  

What should be worrying in this episode is the apparent political conditioning of the staff. Shouldn’t newspaper employees be trained to be neutral observers and faithful reporters rather than political instruments?

Both York and Feinberg felt that Baquet’s remark that “the story changed” was significant. York wonders whether having spent a lot of time and energy on the ‘Trump-Russia’ story (and failed) the Times would spend the next two years on the “Trump-is-a-racist narrative”?

The ‘The Fourth Estate’ in the headline does not refer to Geoffrey Archer’s eponymous novel but to Edmund Burke’s laudatory reference to the press. By the by, Burke’s first three estates, contrary to popular misperception, were ‘the Lords Spiritual’, ‘the Lords Temporal’ and ‘the Commons’.

In Irving Wallace’s brilliant thriller, ‘The Almighty’, the protagonist inherits a newspaper, a fictional rival of ‘The New York Times’. The conditional inheritance stipulates that the paper which was way behind its traditional rival should surpass its circulation for at least one day in the succeeding year. In order to retain ownership, the protagonist recruits a gang of terrorists to stage events and then scoop them as news. He sets himself up as ‘The Almighty’!  

The present media might not go the whole hog to stage terror incidents to scoop stories, but they were, in the past, halfway there. The way they stoked war hysteria for George W. Bush to bomb Iraq in the second gulf war in 2003 to destroy elusive weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was near enough. Are the Times’ and The Washington Post’s anti-Trump campaigns one of a piece with their earlier war campaigns?

The article first appeared in The Times Of India Blogs 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Is Hindu majority chimerical? Is Hindu ‘majority’ really ‘minority’?

This is the English translation of the Editorial of Ṛṣipīham, Telugu magazine, published in its January 2019 issue. The magazine is edited and published by Brahmasri Sāmavēdam anmukha Śarma. Brahmasri Śarma is the foremost exponent of our Sanātana Dhārmic lore. His encyclopaedic knowledge and felicity of expression that makes complex tātvic principles intelligible to common people attract large audiences to his discourses in India and many other nations. Apart from public meetings he appears on several television channels to give discourses on our ancient wisdom. He is a prolific writer and produced many books on Sanātana Dhārmic literature. The translated version of the editorial is published with permission.  

In India that is Bharat Hindus are a numerical majority. At least it appears to be so. A closer look would reveal how chimerical this belief is. In point of fact Hindus are really a ‘minority’.

How? Firstly there are those who are de jure Hindus but de facto converts. Secondly there are those Hindus who have neither the desire nor diligence to live as Hindus or practise Hinduism. They are not only oblivious to the impending peril, but sadly are not consumed by a devotion to protect their Sanātana Dharma. They go through the motions, practising Hindu rituals on auspicious or somber occasions. They are insouciant to the perils threatening their Dharma and the Hindu places of worship. They are insouciant to the political bias of their leaders. They reason: ‘how does it really matter, whichever religion it is?’

Then there are those Hindus who boast of being atheists and lose no opportunity to deride Dharmic scriptures, traditions, rituals and temples in their social intercourse and writings.  

If we exclude these three categories, there is the residual, virtual minority that lives as Hindus and practises Sanātana Dharma. They are the real Hindus!

The contrast with the followers of other faiths could not be starker. There is unanimity of actions, behaviour, beliefs and thoughts among followers of other faiths. They exhibit an unshakable faith in their religion and the thought that no other faith is superior to theirs. They do not denigrate their scriptures or places of worship. Their devotion to their religion is so strong that they do not hesitate to denigrate, deride and suppress faiths other than theirs. Men and women, young and old all learn the ways of their respective faiths and religiously practise them. They acquiesce to their religious leaders even if they are venal or wanton. They stand as one to support them; to make them succeed in their collective goal, viz. preservation, propagation and advancement of their faith. They do not criticize organizations, which in the name of faith, resort to extremist or even terrorist activities. 

Thus the two principal faiths opposed to the Sanātana Dharma are clear in their mind about their purpose and assiduously and – religiously – work to achieve it. There is no ambiguity in their thought and purpose. Their intense desire is that their faith should rule the nation. And that the Sanātana Dharma should be stamped out in its homeland!

Their actions and efforts are focussed in that direction.

Observing their unanimity of thought and action, political leaders – although born Hindu – mollycoddle them and pander to their every wish; they give away national wealth as largesse to pamper them. They participate in the festivals of these faiths donning their traditional attires! But no leader of the other faiths appears in a festival of Hindus. If possible they create hurdles in Hindu celebrations.

The Hindu political leaders know fully well that the myriad caste formations in the Hindu faith never unite as each caste wants to dominate the others in wresting political power.

We have seen the bizarre spectacle of processions of green flags and ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans of certain interest groups emboldened by the results in the recent state elections. Neither the forces of law and order bothered to take action nor any politician stood up to condemn the anti-national activities. The issue is not about celebration of a certain political party coming to power but that the nature of the celebrations signifies an insidious threat to national security and integrity.

Such incidents are not just a threat to the survival of Sanātana Dharma but to peace, religious harmony and national integrity. What could the virtual minority Hindus do to remedy the situation? For the Hindus who seek peaceful, harmonious co-existence with others it is an existential crisis. They have suffered for over a thousand years under alien rule. Sadly the situation does not seem to be different today. In states like Kerala, West Bengal, Jammu & Kashmir and the north east they live in fear. In large tracts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu they live under the hegemony of other religions. There is a sense of insecurity among Hindus in all these areas.

It is not that these realities are unknown. They are widely shared with statistics in social media like Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube. They get shares, likes and forwards but just that. There is no concrete action or reaction to ameliorate the situation or improve the status of Hindus to the eminence they deserve.

The mainstream media conceals the facts. Worse it projects the opposite as truth.  The regional media considers its job done by promoting the interests of caste, regional or factional leaders.

Thanks to the doctored history that is taught in schools, colleges and universities today’s youth is oblivious to the atrocities that were perpetrated on Hindus for centuries in the past. Ignorant of the past, they are unable to view what is happening today in its proper perspective. Instead of trying to safeguard their ancient culture and faith they resort to NOTA peeved by the slightest inconvenience!

What should we do? Just pray the lord to save the Sanātana Dharma and the nation?

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The myth of Nehru and the IITs!

The projection of Nehru as a visionary statesman was a carefully crafted enterprise and incorporated into it were many orchestrated myths. These include the establishment of institutions of excellence (officially Institutions of National Importance or INIs) like the IITs and IIMs. It is another matter though that by the time the first IIM was established in November 1961 Nehru had a job explaining about blades of grass and barren lands in the parliament and exactly a year before the Chinese ended his misery — of having to explain about blades of grass and barren lands in the parliament

Were there no institutions of excellence in ‘India that is Bharat’ (as the Constitution describes it) before the scientific-tempered Nehru waved his magic wand to fill the void? It would not please the secular historians if you said there were. But first let us look at what the scientific-tempered Nehru did to the ‘Ministry of Education’ itself, as the ‘Ministry of Human Resources Development’ was known then. 

A look at the range and sweep of functions that the Ministry handles is mind-boggling. To put it succinctly, it determines what we learn about our past; what we do with our present and how we shape our future. The Ministry has two broad divisions, the ‘Department of School Education and Literacy’ and the ‘Department of Higher Education’. The latter superintends a number of institutions which include the University Grants Commission (UGC), the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the Central Universities, the IITs the IIMs, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) et al. 

In 2014 Abhishek Manu Singhvi was ‘astonished’ to learn that the newly appointed HRD minister was “not [even] a graduate”. Have you ever wondered about the educational qualifications of India’s first Education Minister, chosen by Nehru to superintend a ministry that was to superintend the institutions of excellence and, research and development in science, engineering, technology, not to speak of humanities and social sciences? 

Nehru’s chosen Education Minister was Maulana Sayyid Abul Kalam Ghulam Muhiyuddin Ahmed bin Khairuddin Al-Hussaini Azad! That was a mouthful; wasn’t it? He was born in Mecca but his family relocated to Calcutta in 1890. What were his qualifications for supervising the crucial ministry of education? Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was ‘home-schooled and self-taught’! There need be no objection on that count. A ‘home-schooled and self-taught’ person could turn out to be a genius. But would Nehru have appointed a ‘home-schooled and self-taught’ ‘Shankaracharya’ as India’s education minister? 

Azad’s activities during and after the freedom movement should leave no one in doubt about his inclinations. He inveigled Gandhi and other Congress leaders into supporting the Khilafat movement in far away Turkey, a movement with which India had nothing to do. It was an ill-advised quid pro quo by the Congress leaders for co-opting influential Muslim leaders into the freedom movement; a quid pro quo the nation would live down to regret. Azad and fellow Khilafat leaders Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, Hakim Ajmal Khan along with others founded the Jamia Millia Islamia in Lucknow in 1920. It was later shifted to Delhi. The Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, the precursor of the Aligarh Muslim University had already been in existence since 1875. In another of those secular anomalies of ‘India that is Bharat’, these two institutions of higher learning, funded by the people of India, cater exclusively to the Muslim community. Azad proposed reserving houses vacated by Muslims displaced during partition for Muslims in India. He was in favour of Muslim personal laws as opposed to a uniform civil code (UCC).

Azad helped Nehru in 1936 in the espousal of socialism as party philosophy in the face of opposition from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Babu Rajendra Prasad and C. Rajagopalachari and in his re-election as Congress president in 1937. He resigned as Congress president in 1946 to make way for Nehru to become president. It was then known that the Congress president would become the prime minister as soon as India attained independence. All in all Azad was Nehru’s ‘twin-soul’ and a confidante; worth rewarding with a key portfolio. 

Coming back to the institutions of excellence, were the IITs the first institutions of excellence, established by a visionary Nehru as his sycophants would have us believe?  The history of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) does not fit into the Indian Left Illiberals’ fictitious ‘India’s founding fathers’ narrative with Nehru as its over-arching visionary. 

During a voyage from Yokohama to Vancouver in 1893, Swami Vivekananda impressed the philanthropist-businessman Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata with his views on science:

“How wonderful it would be if we could combine the scientific and technological achievements of the West with the asceticism and humanism of India!”

Jamsetji Tata wrote to Swami Vivekananda five years later in 1898 about his idea of establishing an institution to promote research in science and technology and seeking his co-operation for it.  

A committee was constituted to prepare a blueprint for setting up the institution. Tata bequeathed a substantial part of his own wealth for funding it. Sadly Tata did not live to realise his dream project. He died in 1904. The Queen Regent Vani Vilasa Sannidhana of Mysore (who ruled the princely state on behalf of her minor son Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV) donated 371 acres of land for the institute and the IISc was inaugurated on May 27, 1909. Nehru was all of twenty years when the IISc was born. Ironically, the only linkage Nehru had with the IISc was that he died on the same day in 1964!

And now about the IITs! According to the website of the IIT, Kharagpur (the first IIT), the Honourable Sir Jogendra Singh (member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, Department of Education, Health and Agriculture) set up a committee in 1946 to “consider the setting up of Higher Technical Institutions for post war industrial development in India.” The twenty-two member committee headed by Nalini Ranjan Sarkar recommended the setting up of four Higher Technical Institutions  in the Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern parts of India. They were to be modelled on the lines of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Thus was born the first IIT in May 1950 which initially functioned from Calcutta and later shifted to Kharagpur in September 1950. 

The IIT, Kharagpur began functioning in the Hijli detention camp (renamed Hijli Shaheed Bhavan) where many of our great freedom fighters were detained and some sacrificed their lives for the independence of the country. The hallowed history of the camp is marked by the martyrdom of two freedom fighters, Santosh Kumar Mitra and Tarakeswar Sengupta, whom the British shot dead on September 16, 1931. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose came to the camp, to receive the dead bodies of the martyred freedom fighters. 

The most sordid twist in the saga of the Hijli Shaheed Bhavan was that a part of it was converted into the Nehru Museum of Science and Technology in 1990. The martyrs were dumped on the wayside of history.   

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Indian Media’s Deus Ex Machina

This piece was written as the 2014 general election campaign was drawing to a close, and in a way predictive of which way the wind was blowing.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
                        – Tennyson, Alfred. In Memoriam [Ring Out Wild Bells].

As the long-drawn election season winds down to choose a new government, two distinct aspects of it are discernible. The first is the agenda of development and its architect, Narendra Modi that dominated this election and the second, the increasingly distortive role played by the Indian media as it reported (or misreported) the election campaign. 
The outcome of the election has been clear since Narendra Modi opened his campaign with a rally in Hyderabad on a hot Sunday afternoon in August last year. The opinion polls, grudgingly reported by a biased English language media have made it increasingly clear that ‘the nation is yearning for a change’, as BJP’s Ravi Sankar Prasad had repeatedly tried to din into the collective thick skull of the media. Only the purblind or the myopic had any doubts about the steadily surging possibility of the next government being formed by the NDA headed by the BJP and Narendra Modi. There may be a tsunami rumbling under, ready to break the surface and change Indian politics forever, but it is safe to assume that the next government will be formed by a party formation led by Narendra Modi. 

From the beginning Narendra Modi tried to steer the election away from the divisive politics of caste and creed, and election-eve largesse that came to dominate Indian elections from its inception. He did not woo this or that caste; did not placate this or that creed nor did he announce reservations and more reservations for this or that section of the electorate. He sought the people’s mandate purely on his projected development agenda. He promised the youth a golden future that is their due. What were his credentials? His development record in Gujarat! What did the media do? It ignored all that. It set out to pick and choose bits and bobs from his speeches, stripped them all out of context and wilfully distorted them. 

The media’s ‘agenda of distortion’ did not begin with its reportage of Narendra Modi’s October 27, 2013 ‘Hunkar rally’ in Patna. It has been doing it since 2002, as detailed in many articles in VOXNDICA. The distortion has only sharpened in shrillness and perhaps in silliness. The rally at Gandhi Maidan was attended by a record number of 300,000 people, not seen since Jaya Pakash Narain.* It was marred by a series of blasts in Patna, intended to subvert it. Modi came to know of the blasts as soon as he arrived in Patna. Had he panicked and cancelled the meeting the inevitable stampede would have killed hundreds of people, many more than the blasts could. Modi retained his composure and addressed the crowd in Bhojpuri and Maithili, two local dialects and in Hindi in his oratorical style. The crowd lapped up every word. He asked the Hindus, whether they would rather fight poverty and backwardness than they did the Muslims. He asked the Muslims whether they would rather fight poverty and backwardness than they did the Hindus

An objective media would have highlighted his composure in the face of an obvious terror attack which saved many lives and the progressive vision which he tried to project while addressing the gathering. Instead, it chose to dissect whether or not Modi was accurate in his historical references, taking a cue from either misunderstood, or malicious tweets from some foot soldiers of the Congress dynasty. As he was addressing a rally in Bihar it was but natural for him to invoke the pride of Bihar, the Nalanda University and as a comparison invoke the name of Takshila the way people speak of Oxford and Cambridge. When people speak of Oxford and Cambridge they do not mean that the two universities are in the same place. Similarly when people speak of India’s two ancient universities Nalanda and Takshila they do not mean that they are in the same place. Yet this was the nitpicking that the media resorted to ignoring the central idea of the speech. The media dissected every word Modi and his lieutenant, Amit Shah uttered. It analysed every gesture and utterance of his other party colleagues to find dissonance. If there were none they simply invented and substituted it. It analysed their opponents too, but always gave them the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes in order to balance their opponents’ misdemeanours they had to read meanings into Modi’s and Shah’s utterances. Thus was ‘revenge’ read into Amit Shah’s speech in Muzaffarnagar. He and the BJP tried their best to explain, what he sought was ‘electoral’ and not ‘physical’ revenge but the media simply turned a deaf ear. It had to balance Azam Khan’s seditious speech and it would simply not budge. 

On the other side are ranged the Congress party and the so- called Aam Admi Party, a phantom created by the media because it did not want the BJP to walk away with the honours without a challenge. Sonia and Rahul led the Congress party campaign for a large part of it. In spite of reading written speeches scarcely looking at the herded, unenthused audience, Sonia evoked a lot of media hoopla. As for Rahul he shot his mouth off as much as he shot his cuffs. ‘Gujarat has 27 crore unfilled jobs!’ This meant every man, woman and child in the state could take up four-and- a-half jobs, which the wicked Narendra Modi was denying them! 

The media realized to its dismay that the mother and son duo was not getting enough traction to head off the challenger, Modi. It needed a deus ex machina. The French phrase, deus ex machina (pronounced dā′əs ĕks mä′kə-nə) means an unexpected, artificial or improbable character introduced suddenly to resolve a situation. The media therefore ‘invented’ Priyanka Vadra. Anchors on NDTV and CNNIBN gushed that she was ‘coming’ as if they were announcing the advent of the next prophet

She was never known to address large gatherings or displayed any kind of vision but she would suffice. She had confined herself to family boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareilly and interacted with rather than addressed small, ogling groups. But going by the press she was getting, you would think she was going to be next prime minister! Several months ago there was an engineered leak that she was going to contest this election and probably would take on Modi himself! 

The media conditioned itself to interviewing Sonia and Priyanka like royalty, by asking leading questions, which included intended or expected answers. A grunt is taken as affirmation. It makes ‘breaking news’ or a banner headline. Thus when a journalist proffers a mike at Sonia and asks, ‘do you think the BJP is polarising the election’ and she says ‘yes’, that is breaking news. Would you expect her to say no? A paper like The Times of India headlines it the next day as, ‘Sonia says BJP communally polarising the election’! 
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*Kanwal, Rahul. (2013). “Narendra Modi rocks Patna, record crowd at Hunkar rally”. India Today. October 27, 2013. Accessible from http://goo.gl/GYAAZc 

Reproduced from Twisting Facts To Suit Theories' & Other Selections Voxindica (2016. Authors Press, New Delhi), pp 146-148

Friday, January 11, 2019

Hinduism (Sanātana Dharma) In Peril?

This is the English translation of the Editorial of Ṛṣipīṭham, Telugu magazine, published in its December 2018 issue. The magazine is edited and published by Brahmasri Sāmavēdam Ṣanmukha Śarma. Brahmasri Śarma is the foremost exponent of our Sanātana Dhārmic lore. His encyclopaedic knowledge and felicity of expression that makes complex tātvic principles intelligible to common people attract large audiences to his discourses in India and many other nations. Apart from public meetings he appears on several television channels to give discourses on our ancient wisdom. He is a prolific writer and produced many books on Sanātana Dhārmic literature. The translated version of the editorial is published with permission.  

“This is the twenty-first century. We have been progressing technologically and scientifically. Globalization has erased national boundaries. Is it necessary in this day and age to harbor religious chauvinism? Does religion really matter? Let us eschew narrow-minded religiosity.  What the country needs is development. Basic necessities like food, water and infrastructure facilities like roads … these should get our attention rather than religion.” 

These are lofty ideals. As the poet said they are “Good sentences and well pronounced!” But they are preached only to Hindus. Or are only uttered by Hindus! There may be broadminded people in other faiths too but they remain mute. And remain faithful to their religious institutions.

How ideal would it be if everyone practiced their religion in individual or family settings without disturbing social harmony! But do we see such an atmosphere in India? The intolerance of non-Hindu religions towards Hinduism is a fact of everyday life that cannot be concealed. It is a perilous reality that the Indian polity has been ignoring.

A few months ago the pontiff of a non-Hindu religion clearly and unambiguously pronounced “We should elect a leader who accords precedence to our religion. Only our religion should rule the nation.” Another non-Hindu religion has been giving a similar call for long. It must be noted that no Hindu pontiff resorted to such pronouncements.

Does any public or media ‘intellectual’ ask “Should such calls be permitted in a nation that is constitutionally secular?” Neither do our political leaders condemn such demands. On the other hand they lose no opportunity to propitiate the proponents of non-Hindu religions. They offer to construct monumental places of worship for them and allot hundreds of acres of public land although such deeds are ultra vires of the Indian Constitution. They are allotting hundreds of crores for their religious festivals. While the Hindu places of worship are state-controlled and income from them expropriated, places of worship of non-Hindu religions are beyond the ken of common law. Governments cannot demand that income from their places of worship be used for ‘secular’, even developmental purposes. On the one hand Indian states grapple with deficit budgets and on the other they shower largesse on non-Hindu religious institutions.

The actions of some state governments and pronouncements of the highest judiciary have the effect of undermining ancient temple practices and traditions that stood the test of time for thousands of years. Even state governments led by parties that are ideologically atheist have succumbed to the diktats of non-Hindu religious interests to coerce Hindu organizations. Statutes are amended to appoint non-Hindus to temple management boards.[1] In the national congregation of a non-Hindu religion recently organized in Secunderabad, a resolution was passed to the effect that its adherents should work collectively to bring to power a government in which their religion has a veto.

In a recent bizarre incident, adherents of a non-Hindu religion who went to ‘bless’ a Hindu Chief Minister signaled that he should erase the tilak on his forehead, and he meekly obliged! Incidents such as these should have raised the hackles of Hindus but lamentably it did not happen.

A slogan painted in large letters on a sacred hillside on the way to a famous Siva shrine in Andhra Pradesh declared that the ‘god’s messenger’ of a non-Hindu religion was the ‘Lord of all’. When a few Hindu devotees sought to erase it, they were arrested by the police and cases booked against them as ‘rowdy sheeters’. The charge against them was that they were disturbing communal harmony! What did the original slogan-painters do? This incident shows not just the state government’s anti-Hindu approach but how it accords preferential treatment to non-Hindu religions.  

Curiously the two non-Hindu religions don’t take on each other. Their collective target is Hinduism. It is only hapless Hindus who convert to other religions. Forgetting that their ancestors were Hindus, adherents of these non-Hindu religions openly keep abusing Hindu gods and goddesses. In many organizations adherents of the non-Hindu religions coerce their Hindu subordinates to convert. If they do not obey they are penalized. Their career progression is hampered.

In organizations in which non-Hindus rule the roost, applications submitted by Hindus are often binned or action on them inordinately delayed. The situation prevails even in security and law enforcement departments. The oppressed Hindus are afraid of bringing the realities out into the open. Many of them quietly convert succumbing to allurements or coercion. This is not to say that non-Hindus should not occupy superior positions. All citizens of this country should enjoy equal rights and have equal opportunities. But shouldn’t people in positions of power discharge their duties justly instead of using their positions and powers as coercive weapons for spreading their religion? It is time Hindus woke up and refused to tolerate political leaders of whichever hue, who pander to other religions and coerce Hindus. It is due to corruption in the Hindu religious and endowments departments and aggression of other religions that the Hindu temples are in a pitiable state.

A religion based political party which committed atrocities against Hindus before independence (but for Sardar Patel they would have ‘ruled’ the erstwhile princely State) has been indulged by all political parties in power in ‘secular India! It continues to spew venom against Hindus. If anyone points this out they are labelled ‘Hindu chauvinist’. Those who call for ‘one nation, one community, one law’ are labelled ‘religious bigots’.

All in all it is a scary scenario for the Hindus. They should wake up; be aware of the impending danger and get ready for self-protection. If not their apathy would undermine the nation’s progress. If the Hindus do not act, they will be reduced to the status of second class citizens as in Kashmir and North Eastern states. They should remember that even if they decide to run away, there is no other nation in the world to give them asylum!
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[1] In a landmark judgement, the move to appoint non-Hindus to Hindu temple management boards has been struck down by the Kerala High Court. SeeDevaswom Commissioner of Travancore/Cochin Devaswom Board Will Always Be A Hindu, Declares Kerala HC”. 2018. LiveLaw.in. November 25, 2018. Accessible from https://goo.gl/SGcCmG