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The Intolerance Debate – Two Sides, and A Silver Lining

Published November 28, 2015 by vishalvkale

THE PREAMBLE

In the previous part of this article, I concluded by stating “… One cannot argue or speak logic in such an atmosphere, when the tiniest comment leads to taunts of Go To Pakistan and/or personal insults, when even the most simple article or statement leads to massive arguments with some of my close friends and family”… This is the main theme of this concluding third part on Intolerance; this article is more of a heart-searching, a regret and a lament than a contribution to the debate. As previously stated, I have no intention of muddying the waters anymore.

I cannot recall any instance in my life when such an impassioned, and completely biased debate has been the mainstay – and from both sides of the spectrum. While one side is admittedly far calmer and collected, the fact remains that Newton’s third law – action/reaction, is ensuring a slow degeneration. That said, it has to be stated that despite the most cutting barbs, one side has not descended to such abysmal levels of public discourse. This is not about the Government – I am exclusively talking about we, The People; I stated earlier that I have no intention of writing on any political angle as of now. I intend to keep my promise as far as possible.



SELF-EXAMINATION OF US AS A PEOPLE

What causes us, as a people, to express ourselves in such ways? What has the Intolerance Brigade done that is so bad that justifies the Tolerance Brigade  {Some members at least} calling people who express their opinion from the other side with deep insults, give vent to extreme taunts and cutting barbs? Where is the need to show such scathing condescension? I admit that this is present only in some people – but it is present, and for everyone to see. This development is unlike anything I have seen in my life; and has caused to me to be shocked into silence by the unbelievable contempt and lack of understanding on the other side.

Even the more conservative have been, this time, scathing in their vehemence and at times even condescension. The stunning stridency of the defences mounted by the Tolerance Brigade beggars belief, so galling is the high decibel levels of the defence; so much so, that I can only call it a counter-attack. Even the remotest suggestion of a public figure – any public figure – venturing anywhere near the term ‘Intolerance” sets off a  massive spate of protests on social media as well as the regular media outlets!

If this was only about Public Figures, it could be a political matter; the problem is that this even extends to the personal sphere. Whatsapp forwards that poke barbs at the Intolerance Brigade, anti-BJP or Pro-Congress or Pro-AAP people are pretty much the routine. The odd-article or comment from the other side almost immediately  results in someone or the other countering with views of their own. This is, by itself, welcome; I have been privileged enough to be a part of such debates on Facebook as well as Whatsapp with some of my closest friends as well as relatives.

The problem is if someone from the other side automatically assumes me to be a member of the Intolerance Brigade without affirmation of my views; or if someone comes back with a barb and straight insult – or even a show of deep contempt. Fine; you don’t agree – but does that mean my patriotism is in question? Does that imply that only one side of the debate is patriotic? I refer to various updates questioning the same! Or that I deserve contempt or insults? Is this the way to conduct a civilized discourse? Not all discussions degenerate like this  – to be completely fair; but some do. And it is those few that cause intense provocation and soul-searching.


THE FRIENDS AND FAMILY ANGLE
Luckily, in my case, soul searching has managed to overcome the provocation – and for that, I have to thank The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta and the Kathopanishad / Kenopanishad which I am currently reading. Credit where credit is due. That I have managed to overcome the bitterness is not due to my innate abilities, or my self-control, or my personality; it is due to the wisdom that I have found in the Holy books I am currently reading

How do I argue with my relatives – close ones at that? How do I discuss with my closest friends without spoiling the relationship? How do I  discuss this with the benefactor who has helped me? It cant be done; so divergent are the differences, so different the views that any discussion is a recipe for certain heartache and disaster, given the strongly held positions on both sides. It would also be a stupid thing to do – at times, silence is golden and preferable to proving your point.  That seemingly simple, clear and straightforward bit of common sense holds great promise…



WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?
And that is what is worrying me; at the same time – that is also pointing a way out of this quagmire. I cannot recall anything in my 43 years {well, 25-27 years if you count from the late teens} that has aroused so much passion and debate in the people. Why is it that anything remotely questioning the Government this time is inducing so much vehemence and stridency? Why the extreme levels of defensiveness to debate and questioning – and on just about any aspect of the Modi Government? Is it the assumption of the people that Mr Modiji cannot do any wrong? Conversely, why is it so difficult for the other side to give praise where praise is due?

Take Shashi Tharoor, Arun Shourie and Shatrugha Sinha as perfect political examples. Does their praise of  or questioning or their political stance vis-a-vis the Government make them any less committed than what they are? Why is this so much of a problem? Why cant we accept that Modiji is doing fabulously great in some aspects, not-so-great in others, and abysmally bad in others? How does that statement call for anything other than an informed rebuttal on the negative aspects basis facts? Where is the need to bring in insults, barbs and taunts on this? Why cant we, or rather, to be harsh – why are we totally unable to – think in a calm fashion on this? Why the stunning stridency?


SHADES OF GREY
And no side is bereft of errors in this debate; this is the real world, and both sides are shades of grey. But you will not find even one participant on either side willing to admit they are anything other than the purest , most pristine shade of the Whitest White! At this juncture, it is pointless asking who is more responsible; that is an exercise in futility. Never in my entire life have I encountered such cast-in-stone views on any political matter… and that is the biggest question in my mind. Both sides are blaming the other, and neither side is willing to cede even one inch of ground, taking the debate to ridiculous levels, with the hardened positions on both sides now causing mirth and humour to people like me, who are now shaking their {our?} heads in disbelief.

The Tolerance Brigade is either quick to discount totally the ridiculous utterances of the fringe elements, being insultingly dismissive of the societal as well as political impact of the said statements; either that, or some members of this brigade actually defend the above as logical, which is a really sad tragedy. To these people, these are non-events; and they will brook no question of intolerance; some of these people also maintain the Government is picture-perfect and can do no wrong. To this sub-set, any question of anti-Government, critical appraisal is nothing short of sacrilege – so much so, that insults and taunts fly on the mere hint of criticism.

The Intolerance Brigade, on the other hand, is vehement on proving their point. Separate issue that some of their points requires no proof; the fringe elements and their statements are proof enough of the existence of some elements that buy into the intolerance. Furthermore, the way the protestors cut across the socio-political kaleidoscope is mute testimony of the facts as they exist on the ground. 


They however, tend to forget that a fringe does not a nation make! They too, like their friends above, exaggerate – though not to such an extent; some of these people regrettably extend the intolerance claim to the entire nation – which is a highly debatable assumption. Do we, as a nation, really require to prove to anyone our tolerance? I don’t think so.


SILVER LINING AND HOPE
But most critically, what most sides miss is the most vital aspect of this entire pro and anti BJP thing : the fact that this {larger pro and anti BJP debate} has politically revived the nation, and especially the thankless and lackadaisically selfish middle class. For the first time in my memory, political debates are in friends, family and society; for the first time in my memory, politics is not some esoteric rocket science that does not impact us as a people; for the first time, politics is seen as something that interests us directly. And that, to my mind, is a powerful plus, any which way you look at it. And it would be a capital insult to call it a communal affair-  the issues discussed are political, economic, business, and development based

Indeed, for the first time, we have a charismatic leader who has fired the imagination of Indians across religious and political divides. For the first time, we can see passion and devotion towards a leader. For the first time, we can see an involved and committed Indian Citizen, almost entirely fired by one or two leaders. For the first time, we can see, spot and feel the hope that is transparent in Indians wherever you turn your eyes. And for the first time – we have not one – but two clear leaders. One on a national level, our PM; and one on the Regional Level – Mr Arvind Kejriwal. For the first time, we can spot a range of other leaders emerge that can take India to the next level, apart from the above two.

Whether or not you like one or the other; whether or not you concede the status of AK, or whether or not you are in agreement with the policies of either; you cannot deny that each has a dedicated followership; and never mind that as of now, AK cannot compare in any way in terms of dedicated and unreserved passion unlike NaMO. For the biggest plus that we have as a  nation is the slow emergence of  a set of future leaders. Now we can be assured, that even if AK does not meet the promise, the holy land of India, Bharat, Aryavart will not fail her children. She never has, and she never will. As I said earlier – Mehendi Toh Mehendi Hai, Rang Laayegi. Khoon Apnaa Rang Dikhaa Kar Rahegaa. That much seems certain.



In conclusion – I just wish both sides would tone down the needless rhetoric, focus on development, acknowledge that real problems exist, and move on.  If this article sounds disjointed and confused – it mirrors my mind in letter and spirit. I cant put it any better than I have above…  
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The Intolerance Debate and Its Genesis

Published November 27, 2015 by vishalvkale

The big question in front of us as a nation is how do we proceed, given the recent spate of events around tolerance and intolerance perceptions? We are seeing the emergence of two clear camps – which I prefer to call The Tolerance Brigade and The Intolerance Brigade. Each sides sees no merit in the others’ position, with one side actually pulling out all sorts of tactics-  both logical & cogent, as well as illogical and insultingly extreme bordering on direct personal verbal and written abuse. At times, this abuse goes beyond all controls to become extreme and personally targeted and attacking on Social Media as well.

THE DEBATE

First, the great Debate. One and a half year ago, there was no hint of any debate, any thought, any link or any movement or even any fear of the rise of intolerance, by and large. The discourse was around corruption, development, discontent with ruling powers, the rise of NaMo and the debate is caused, and the national mood was around positive aspects. Even in the debate around NaMo, it can be argued that there was no polarisation – at least nothing as compared to what we are seeing nowadays around intolerance; sure there were politically charged statements flying around, but that is a far cry from what we are seeing currently.

So how did the situation come to this scenario, this extremely vitiated scenario that we see? There is some merit in the statements of the Tolerance Brigade that this is impacting India’s image, truth be told. What has happened in the interim that justifies such a vitriolic response around this entire debate? How did this debate actually arise? What is its genesis? Why are some people feeling the need to voice their insecurity, cutting across Party and Religious affiliations?

For one thing cannot be denied – this cuts right across the cross-section of our society, with people from all walks of life giving urgent voice to their discomfiture, which includes people from a variety of political parties in addition to the normal people from all places. By no stretch of imagination can such  a variety of people speak up just for the sake of it, or just for publicity, or just like that. Further, given that I have also met a number of common people who are also feeling the heat, in their views, of rising intolerance, this is a potent question that needs answering – the question of intolerance.

 What has transpired in the past few months since this new Government that explains this rising debate? What is its genesis? Readers are free to connect the dots, everyone is aware of exactly what has transpired since May 2014. Irresponsible utterances by fringe elements of the Hindutva Brigade, leaders which has been picked up by the Media as well as Social Media, are just one example. {Note – I did not single out any party here, not even the RSS, which is doing a great job in the social arena, spreading our culture & religion, fighting Westernisation as well as fitness through its shaakhaas}

There have also been some sad and even tragic incidences that have happened; the aftermath of those incidences, as well as the utterances could have been handled much better which would have stopped or at least delayed this debate and this polarisation; but what is done is done; no point crying over spilt milk. What we need to learn from this immediate past is what is pertinent for us as a nation.  The point for us, the take-away is the undeniable fact that  there have been some incidents that provide a base for the feeling of intolerance; statements which both are and were completely avoidable, in addition to some sad incidents.

A lot more lies to this; this alone cannot explain the tide of statements and reactions this has let loose in Social Media as well as normal discourse in addition to the political potpourri it has curdled. The silence of the Government, or at least perceived silence, is another aspect. It is beyond debate that a stronger response right at the start would have stopped this; let us hope the Government listens to and learns from this – which I am certain it will, given its overall mature approach. Nothing stated so far in this article explains away the current deluge of opinions and debate on this issue. Beyond all of this, beyond the Government, the utterances, and the incidents, are we the people. And we stand indicted today; indicted today by the present deluge…

WE THE PEOPLE

It has been stated by the Tolerance Brigade that the incidents alluded to above do not mean the entire nation is intolerant –  something I ascribe to fully. A series of articles have appeared from a range of normal Indians hauling coals over the Intolerance Brigade; statements and articles from Sanaatanis, Muslims etc. A few sporadic incidents and statements do not, should not and cannot be the basis for the indictment of an entire people – that I completely agree with. India, that paragon of Tolerance, cannot be indicted as an Intolerant nation.

But these same people would do well to remember that we are a democracy, and people are entitled to their opinion – just as you are to yours. The Intolerance Brigade has as much right to its views as the Tolerance Brigade has to its views. And, given that their fears are based on hard facts and incidents, their position has to be taken into consideration and granted; that there does exist some problem,  some issue that needs to be tackled. Ridiculing them is not the solution; doing so is in fact quite dangerous, as it completely ignores the fringe elements that have caused this.

The response to this entire spectrum, right from the start, has been focussed around personal attacks, insults, targeting, ridiculing and outright ostracization attempts. Is this any way to build a dialogue or solve an issue? Or is it actually exacerbating the problem? Ok, so the person {some person, any one – any Tom, Dick or Harry} is feeling slightly edgy – how do you tackle this? By attacking him and ridiculing his feelings? This will reinforce his earlier feeling of insecurity! So what even if the insecure person spoke publicly? Isnt it feasible to counter his or her arguments in a controlled and logical manner – while also granting that the base feeling of intolerance is present, but only in a fringe segment?

In place of logical arguments, the Intolerance Brigade gets responses like “Haraamzaadaa”, “Kamina”, Go to Pakistan, Who asked you, and much much more. The person’s integrity is questioned, patriotism is questioned, and far more. What is the impact of such irresponsible statements? Rather than sit across the table, talk and assuage concerns, r the people with their ridicule and personal attacks vitiate the atmosphere. Is voicing your opinion  a ground for asking to quit India?

Even I have been taunted with that!  Does it justify calling personal insults? Who is being more mature here?Even if you grant someone makes an irresponsible statement on the other side, does that call for an even more ridiculous and immature answer – or does it call for a measured answer?  Even if you grant that the initial statement should have been taken up privately, the uncalled for response from the public is also wrong. And two wrongs do not make a right.

And that is why, we as a people, stand indicted today in front of all. The Intolerance Brigade with its vocal statements should be more mature; given that I feel they are actually more mature than others, it is expected that they control themselves. And the Tolerance Brigade with its stupid, insulting and arrogant remarks are only serving to further muddy the waters vitiating rather than solving anything. All of us – we, the people – stand indicted. 


In line with my arguments above, I shall now not place any article on my Blog on this matter for the next few weeks or months… One cannot argue or speak logic in such an atmosphere, when the tiniest comment leads to taunts of Go To Pakistan. and/or personal insults, when even the most simple article leads to massive arguments with some of my close friends and family. The only way to deal with this is disengagement, and let things settle down for now. There is no point in further muddying an already muddy lake… 


Are We Really Tolerant As A People?

Published November 26, 2015 by vishalvkale

A series of both known as well as common people have spoken up against intolerance in the past few weeks and months – as also against this debate; with each passing week, we get a new face on either side of this intolerance debate.  Each side, to be fair, has cogently placed its point in front of the audience. This, to be frank – is not worrying; it is in fact a great development that at least a debate, an open discussion is being taken up in the Media and among the public; and in that debate lies a sense of hope…
The problem lies not in the cogently presented arguments; an argument, albeit misinformed – can be countered with facts and logic only if it is presented in a logical and controlled matter; but, if it is put forward in an insulting or attacking manner, the scope for logical arguments getting through to either side reduces to near zero, creating a vicious circle of point and counter-point, an argument without a logical end or a defined direction in sight. And that is what is happening in India as of now, in my humble opinion!
I will not take sides directly in this article; the reason will become apparent in this article itself.  Some people have said India is becoming intolerant, while others have risen in anger against such statements. It is fine if you don’t agree; but the way you present your arguments matter one hell of a lot. Ok, fine – so the intolerance brigade is crazy, out of its mind, wrong and easily impressionable. But does that mean the tolerance brigade respond with illogic and insults? Is that a sign of tolerance – or are you proving your intolerance by hurling insults?
The intolerance, in my opinion, is not in the Government – but in we the people, and at a much deeper level than previously thought . Intolerance is in not allowing that there might be a viewpoint that differs from yours; that others have a right to an opinion that is at variance from yours. Intolerance is in not granting the other side a respectful listening, and instead targeting it with ridicule, insults and pointed taunts going right upto leave India. Intolerance is in not in the hero-worship of an individual – everyone is entitled to a role model/s. The intolerance is in not granting that there may be people who don’t agree with you, and not granting them that leeway; rather, targeting them. That is true intolerance
THE GOVERNMENT & THE INTOLERANCE BRIGADE
A lot has been said against this Government; but I cannot find a clear instance where the Government has been  directly or indirectly intolerant. Fair is fair- let us criticise the Government by all means; we are a democracy. But let us not go overboard. There is a difference, a vast difference between the Government and some of its elements. In fact, the very worst thing the intolerance brigade can do is call the Government intolerant – that is serious stuff, and is not done.
That said, the silence on several questionable and at times outrageous statements and utterances by several leaders of the ruling party at the most inopportune moment {Is there really an opportune moment for outrageous remarks? I wonder!} is a cause of deep concern.  I have no doubt that at some point a message must have gone to the errant leaders to reign in their views; but this is not in the public domain.
The worst that this Government can be faulted for is its inexplicable silence, which is getting more and more deafening with each passing moment. I wish the Government, and specifically the PM, gets vocal, talks down the nonsense emanating from the ruling party’s fringe, faces them down and calls their statements publicly in strong terms. That would go a long way in redressing the increasing disquiet in some corridors.  It is this interminable silence that is causing deep concern and worry. Eventually, I have no doubt that our PM will speak up, given his handling over the years. I only hope he speaks up as soon as possible – and in strong terms, which will quell the debate.
THE TOLERANCE BRIGADE
This is where things get interesting. The tolerance brigade, seemingly firm believers in India’s justified reputation of religious as well as intellectual tolerance, are up in arms at the seeming insult they feel at India being called intolerant. That in itself is fine – an open debate and discussion is welcome, as it can help clarify matters. The problem is the level of stridency in the response from this tolerance brigade, which leaves zero scope for engagement for mutual benefit and conflict reduction. If anything, the conflict of the ideas escalated.  
Ok, so you don’t agree with the views of some of the people. Does that mean you tell them, taunt them to leave India and go to Pakistan? Does that give you the right to call them desh-drohi and a traitor? {Not talking of Aamir or SRK, please! I don’t watch Hindi or English movies, only selected few make grade that open my pocket! I am a fan of Marathi movies – and to me, Swapnil Joshi, Mukta Barve, Vikram Gokhle, Subodh Bhave, Ajinkya Deo are bigger stars}
Does that mean you insult the other side? Does that mean the Tolerance Brigade call the other side a “Haraamzaadaa”? Does that mean the Tolerance Brigade make a comment ”I will help you and drop you to Pakistan”? Does that mean they make pointed jokes and taunts – not once, but consistently at the other side? Does that mean the Tolerance Brigade call into question their patriotism? Have the Tolerance Brigade considered that the Intolerance Brigade may be as patriotic a side as the Tolerance Brigade? Does that mean the Tolerance Brigade makes it an issue of national pride and national image?
This is one of the most disingenuous arguments that can be made; the shrill response from the Tolerance Brigade is actually equally harmful, as it does not encourage dialogue. In fact, of the two sides, it is the Tolerance Brigade that is more  shrill, personal in their attacks, insulting and deeply wounding in their response. This is equally harmful to national image; a calm and considered response would have settled the hash of the intolerance brigade once and for all.
National image is the composite of all elements within a nation; sporadic statements don’t hurt as much as a shrill and strident response does. Furthermore, the personal level of the insults being hurled, the taunts and the baseless go to Pakistan nonsense is actually proving the Intolerance Brigade right;
Google defines intolerance as intolerance as : ɪnˈtɒl(ə)r(ə)ns,ɪnˈtɒl(ə)rəns/ noun unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behaviour that differ from one’s own. This is the same definition that is found in Oxford as well. So, who is being intolerant? Arent we proving the allegations right by our utterances, strident statements and personal aspertions? Think about it.
CONCLUSION
There isn’t any; not yet, anyway. But, given the personal attacks, insults and strident, non-stop insults and taunts being hurled by the self-professed professors of Tolerance, I am stepping out of this nonsense. I don’t see how you can engage with a side that cannot be engaged with, and insists on deep wounding barbs, citizenship taunts, insults.
Equally, I cannot see how I can take sides with the other side,  as it will only lead to further arguments. What is happening isn’t a debate, it is a joke, and a sad, tragic and deeply worrying joke – a joke caused by the stridency of one side. There are flashpoints, but these need calm reflection, not insults. And the presence of these flashpoints cannot be denied or wished away. Maturity demands an immediate de-escalation, and a calm, controlled re-engagement at some later date.
Some have stated their fears of rising intolerance. To echo the protestors,  I too am feeling scared.  Not of the Government,  which is a good one.  I am scared of the public and it’s hyperbolic euphoria, its deep taunts, complete refusal to engage in constructive dialogue. That is why I have decided to stop penning on these matters.  I will stick to book reviews,  Foreign affairs, selected current affairs of a non-political nature,  but nothing on Religion,  and now these matters as well. 

Yes,  I am scared.  Scared out of my wits by the public euphoria and clearly visible intolerance to views not conforming to their own. The level of stridency is scary; and beyond anything in my experience. So, I step out. The vicious and targeted approach of the protectors of our Tolerance have won the day.  

News Priority – Indian Stories, Or International?

Published November 17, 2015 by vishalvkale

The recent story of an Indian mentioned by our honourable Prime Minister reaching the headlines has kindled a series of questions in me; what were our local Media doing when this was happening? Why aren’t such local heroes and success stories given more attention by the Media and the press? Why does the NRI-PIO story, the international news, the sensational or the world affairs take precedence over important local issues? Going deeper, why are we affected by these stories, and give lesser credence to the local?


Note : It is not my contention we ignore the international aspects; just that there needs to be a proper balance, which is currently absent


This event came at the culmination of a series of experiences regarding Media, when I noted lesser coverage to local issues, even important ones like tragedies and floods etc in India, even on social media, where the international triggered a huge response, and you had to actually hunt to find the local Indian reference. I slowly started clicking on local newspaper sites, most of whom I follow, and discovered a different world entirely; the world of the vernacular.

This has even lead to my first Hindi book on Shivaji Maharaj; but more of that in its book review. I intend to write on this as a comparison after a few months, but for now – the numbers tell the tale. Media is tilting towards these news houses, and I can see why. There is a reason : and the reason seems to be content that is in consonance with the audience views and requirements…

I have, for the first time in my life, shifted over to Lokmat {Marathi}, Dainik Bhaskar {Hindi} and the difference is palpable. I get far more value and far more meaningful news and views on current affairs, near-zero soft-porn or vulgar content, lesser sensationalism, NRI-PIO coverage is far lesser, local achievements get highlighted, local problems get aired – the experience is an eye-opener. The quality is far superior to what I had imagined. They might even be ahead in quality, for all I know. Reading a news portal is fun once again, is all I can say.

The numbers tell the tale. Out of a total revenue of 22400 Crore in 2013, local print had the lion’s share : 13800 Crore { Hindi : 6900 Crores, Other Languages 6900 Crore}. Having shifted over to Hindi and Marathi, I can readily see why that should be so. The disconnect is total with the English Media, by and large, for me as a person. {Exceptions are there even in English Media – but the exception proves the rule}

What do I care what happens in the USA, by and large? {Not applicable to geo-strategic or business issues having a direct impact on India}. Or in Europe? I am more concerned, both as a professional and as a citizen, with pointed local matters. What use is the views of an opinionated NRI / PIO class whose views are completely immaterial? Or the views of an international audience? Who cares what these classes think, beyond a certain point? We are a sovereign nation. We can mind our own business, and need no advise from anyone whatsoever.

What use is the achievements of an Indian Citizen or PIO abroad? I mean who cares? They left India, didnt they? They exercised their democratic right. Let them be happy and prosper. Who cares what they achieve? I certainly don’t; I would rather read about the home-grown success stories, which are in abundance. As per me, the real successful Indians who make a conscious choice to stay at home; who consciously choose India despite having the opportunity to go abroad – not your NRIs and PIOs. Does our Media portray these real successes?

These nameless and faceless Indians are helping make India a better country – with their blood, sweat, toil, effort and sacrifice. There are a lot of things money and dollars remittances from abroad cant purchase – and it is these attributes that cannot be purchased that determine the success of a country! I don’t say that you should go abroad – it is a connected world; and you should not be living in a shell. That would be disastrous. There are clear advantages to be had from a strong emigrant population; the problem is in the level of importance given to them vis-a-vis the real success stories – the stories of Indians who choose to stay in India and give their all.

Those who left, did so for personal benefit, which is a right they exercised, and is not to be grudged. But that also means that there is no reason to celebrate their successes; they left India. While the advantages are undeniable, and their love for their country is also not in question – the problem is in our response to these NRI-PIOs, judging from reactions on the ground, and from the amount of Media attention the English Language media gives them, which is completely out of all proportion to their importance to India, which is not quite as big a factor. As I said – dollars don’t develop a country; blood, sweat, toil, sacrifice and unstinting hard work is what results in development. The money is the result of all these.

The choice rests with you and me; it starts with us. I have consciously made a decision that local news, affairs and local success stories and their coverage are more important;  that these people who leave India dont matter; that international news is important only to a point, not the be-all and end-all; that the local tragedy takes precedence over the international. I have consciously decided to focus only on India. That is the only way; Ek-Se-Ek-Jude-Ek-Zanjeer-Bane. There are a lot of people like you or me; only we get the wrong impression by way of the Media which pointlessly plays up international stories ignoring truly Indian stories. That, and lesser sensationalism are the two significant reasons, apart from lack of local coverage – that account for my shift to Marathi and Hindi Channels and News.


I am reminded of a statement by an educated young woman I met : if all of us educated people leave, who will serve the country? For every one who leaves, there are dozens who consciously decide to stay at home, where they belong. We are a nation of 1.27 Billion; what difference does it make if a few hundred thousand leave? It makes no difference whatsoever. It is better they leave rather than be less productive at home, just dreaming of a life abroad. It is best for everyone concerned. But that is our opinion; may or may not be shared by all


The ones who stay back are the ones who can be depended on the develop India and take it forward. Dollars dont develop a nation; sweat, sacrifice, toil, hard work, blood and unstinting effort does. Rather than think of those who left, think of those who stayed back; or even those who came back to add value. Think of those who died for our Mother – Flt Lt Nirmaljeet S Sikhon, Havaldar Abdul Hamid, Captain Vikram Batra, Lieutenant Manoj Pandey, ACP Hemant Karkare and many many more. Think of Dr Kalam; think of the innumerable resident Indians who have done us proud, without wanting to leave India.

We have a huge number of local stories to celebrate; we can celebrate them. And for that, we dont need or want the Media. Not in the internet age. If we vote with our choice, and quit such papers who peddle this – then perforce they will have to stop such reportage. If we start giving more stress to local Indians, then the message that goes out is that it is not an achievement having gone abroad; the real achievement is in staying home – despite its problems. Home is after all, Home. It is where you belong.

ऑनलाइन लोकमत
मुंबई, दि. १६राज्यातील १४ हजार ७०८ गावांमध्ये शुक्रवारी राज्य सरकारने दुष्काळ जाहीर केला आहे. राज्यात दुष्काळाची भीषण स्थिती पाहता लवकरात लवकर सरकारने दुष्काळ जाहीर करावा, अशी मागणी विरोधकांकडून करण्यात येत होती. यावर आज मंत्रिमंडळाच्या उपसमितीच्या झालेल्या बैठकीत दुष्काळ जाहीर करण्याचा निर्णय घेण्यात आला.

Some 14708 villages in Maharashtra facing a drought like condition does not find a mention in any English Language Newspaper site that I could spot among the 4-5 I looked at on the day I found this article; I was so struck by this, that I saved the link. And some of the listed news are NRI news, or sensational news, or international news etc on that particular date;  if it appeared later, I cannot say. And this important thing does not even feature on it, when I looked at it! And further, I have been noting this on many an occassion; this is not a one-off. Where are our priorities?

The choice rests with us; we determine the modal response. Let us place our vote forward, and start regarding those who left as unimportant to the equation. Let us start placing greater emphasis on Indian News and Views; let us start appreciating the importance of local news and developments; these have the greatest and most visible impact on our lives. Let us start appreciating Indian successes, and let us start placing lesser emphasis on “Videshi” brigade. Let us start appreciating that less sensationalism and more news matters.  It starts with you and me. With us…

The Intolerance Debate : Are We More, Or Less Tolerant?

Published November 8, 2015 by vishalvkale

The intolerance debate has been raging for some time now; high time we tackled this bear by the horns, challenged it and defeated it. But, in order to do that, it is essential we understand the nature of the problem facing us.  It was as I was making this effort of trying to understand intolerance that a striking possibility occurred  : that we might actually be getting far more tolerant than we thought!

PROLOGUE

This first occurred to me when I noted how Dilip Kumar and other Muslim actors had to change their names in order to broaden their appeal. We have moved a long way since then; now not only do film stars not change their names, but can confidently go ahead without a care for their names. Modern India can now showcase famous names across trades and professions showing that professional discrimination has been steadily decreasing to what I hope is now near-zero.

This latest question occurred to me on reading some period literature of the late 1800s and the early 1900s;which showcase the status of our society as it was at ground level in those trying times. As compared to that period, in my opinion we have moved far, far ahead and have become far more accepting and tolerant. Sure, intolerance remains; but it is nowhere near what it was earlier. Sure, problems remain; but nothing quite so serious as compared to before.

SANAATAN DHARM

Santaani resurgence is not a new phenomenon, and has always been present since the times of the early 1800s at least; neither is the division in our society along various lines from caste to politics, That is the price we are paying for colonialism; that is the price of our independence, I have no doubt that eventually we shall triumph; my confidence in my mother, my India is total in that regard, As is my confidence in at least my religion : Sanaatan Dharm, wrongly known as Hinduism.

We have two choices : focus on the negative message of intolerance, or further the positive message of tolerance. I choose to take the latter path : can we spot current trends towards tolerance? I can, More than several, and in the here and the now…

There is far more than meets the eye, in that this isnt just a political issue as much as it is a classic socio-political issue arising out of the entire sequence of events that can be traced back decades, if not more. The past events have given rise to a minority of Sanaatani followers in India who hanker for a more fundamental approach; a set of people who set store by Sanaatan Dharm as the central religion, and the pole of Indian polity as well as society

Note : I refer to Hinduism as Sanaatan Dharm, by its original name. There is no historical or religious basis for the term Hinduism; basis my more than 36 books reading of Indian History, almost all reviewed on my blog.

There is still a segment of people who regard Muslim rule as alien, who still quote the wars and the violence in the Mughal and Slave Dynasty periods, who insist that Muslim rule was far more damaging than the British rule, You can read blogs, articles on the mythical 1000-year slavery, or the other aspect online on any number of platforms, or on comments. Hopefully this is still a minor matter in India

What is happening isnt just a political affair; it is a socio-political affair. And unless we factor in all factors, any conclusions we reach will be erroneous. And the past has a tremendous bearing on the present; any number of current events can be found as proof. Please read the comments on various sites, and note the tenor of the comments, and how they hark back to the “golden” period of Sanaatani rule for vivid proof of this. We have no choice but to face down the events of the past, and prove the reality, separate the chaff from the substance, and lay bare the reality,

FACTORS OF THE PROBLEM, AND THE ANALYSIS

The problems we face today have their genesis in several factors :
* History
* Social Developments and Churning
* Politics
* Religion

But more of these in later articles; To cut things short for now, it isnt a matter of do-this-as-my-forefathers-were-done-this-to-them. It goes much deeper – into a hard-wired inferiority feeling in some Sanaatan Dharmis, wherein they regard the period 1300-1700 as a period when the Golden rule of Sanaatan Dharm fell by the wayside. The problem with this narrative in vogue is at many levels and layers; for starters – the assumption of Sanaatani political rule is itself debatable, given the non-political nature, by and large, of Sanaatan Dharm. Further, the interplay between political factors and the cooperation of local kings also goes ignored in this narrative

Second, the assumption that Sanaatan Dharm fell is itself, to me, a deep insult; the way I see it, we Sanaatanis did not fall; despite the heavy persecution that was periodically visited upon us for the past several centuries, While the Abrahaminic Religions totally eclipsed the earlier society in just about the rest of planet Earth, we followers of Sanaatan Dharm remain, as we were, resilient, resolute, unchanging, with the same cultural and religious practices as in 500 or 1000 plus BC, perhaps even 4000BC Plus!.
Now that, I respectfully submit, is something truly special. We were there when Babylon rose and fell; and we are still here, in the 21st Century.

To the mainstream of Sanaatani people, it doesnt matter; we are more concerned with out duties and our lives; our scriptures are pretty much specific – do your duty towards nation, family and society. Nothing else matters. You are alive just for one reason : to do your duty to family and society, period.

But, to some people, the loss of political power in the early part of the 1st millennium onwards till the 18th century is proof of the mythical “fall” of Sanaatani power. There is a burning desire to see Sanaatani followers as powerful militarily and otherwise; they tend to forget that the real power of a Sanaatan Dharmi is, as per me, his or her internal strength and resolute and rock-hard belief system that has withstood centuries & millennia of epochal buffeting winds and changes.

To simplify, it isnt really about others; it is a burning internal desire to strengthen our own Sanaatan Society that is one part of the driving factor – giving rise to forces like the Sangh. Now this can be both positive as well as negative; that we need a Sangh, a body of social drivers that can ensure continued passing on of values and norms is beyond argument; I myself am a fan of the Sangh’s socio-cultural activities, and how they strive towards creating a good citizen, as well as driving the power of our religion into their minds, as also inculcating a feeling of pride in our heritage, which are all positives. {I have used the Sangh here just as an example}

On persecution of Sanaatan Dharm followers : that is a statement that has some basis in fact, and there is no point denying it, Yes, we Sanaatan Dharm followers are, in my opinion, one of the two most persecuted people on this planet – and in our own land, to boot. We, and the Jews stand as exemplary people in the history of the Earth : no one has been persecuted as much as us, and by just about everyone. It is a matter of inconsequential debate as to who was persecuted more : {my opinion, The Jews have been through more than us} – and is an academic point.  
But who persecuted us really – the Arabs, or the British? And what about the active cooperation of local kings with the invaders? What about the various treaties and friendships that happened during medieval times? And why are we forgetting the active conversion campaigns of the European Christians? {Christians were here in India since almost 70AD, and had lived peacefully. It is only after the Europeans that conversions started.  All these, and other questions will need attending to.

While the World has learnt and grown up to accept Jews, The Sanaatan Dharm follower is still held to public ridicule outside India in any number of even mainstream outlets. It hurts, damnit – and I make no bones about it. So why doesn’t this strike a chord in us?

But the real challenge is in facing this hurt, accepting it – and moving on, We cannot afford to live in ignorance; that way lies disaster, leaving open the chance of manipulation by some forces. We have to face the history, grow up to it, look it straight in the eyes, and state: You are History, I am the present, and I shall learn from you, but not want to seek justification or revenge. The current set of people have done nothing to damage us, and thus share no blame. What is past is done with, and over. Let bygones be bygones; forgive and forget.

By not facing upto the past, we are leaving the field open for one-sided narratives that blame everyone except look inward, We need to introspect, understand and face our own faults that lead to this persecution, for that is the positive way forward, We need to understand that not everyone, even in the past, was out to get us; and that the persecution, while true, was not supported by all. We, now more than ever, need to face upto the history of our nation, and learn from it; learn from our fall from grace, understand the true reasons for our fall from grace, and connect these learnings to the present day. That is one way we can fight this rising tide.


In conclusion, in this set of articles, I shall attempt to look at why India is actually getting more tolerant each day; I shall try and analyse the reasons for the rise of the rhetoric around some aspects, try and present the fuller picture, and underscore that while challenges and worries remain : there is far more reason to be hopeful and buoyant than there is to be cynical and worried… Jai Hind! Vande Mataram!

Book Review : The Secrets Of The Dark

Published November 2, 2015 by vishalvkale



BOOK REVIEW : THE SECRETS OF THE DARK
by ARKA CHAKRABARTI
Welcome to the mystical and mysterious land of Gaya, a land unlike any you will ever have encountered in your readings. This is a land of strife, of mystery, of intrigue, of politics, of East and West, of secrets, of prophecies and of an unrelenting hunt for the truth against all odds. This is the land, the land of Gaya, the Land where Agni is born and rises up to be a fine man, a man any mother would be justifiably and immensely proud to call her own. This is the story of Agni, a story unlike any you will ever have read… the story of a man prophesied to … fame… or is it infamy?
THE CHARACTERS :
Agni : Who is he? Evil, or Good? Destroyer, or Saviour? Whatever else he may be – this man doesn’t know the meaning of the word “give up”. He just doesn’t!
Vrish : Wish everyone had a friend like Vrish… doesn’t agree with Agni; but goes along all the same
Princess Lysandra : Women, fighter, Princess, Tough and Devoted. All of them in one grand package
Malini : Now why on earth would anyone kill someone who knows nothing?
Sir Drake : From the West, A Guest, Maybe a pest, Maybe a test, maybe a friend best… or maybe a quest… Me, I wont say – but will give you a test!
The Stranger : Now why should I tell, if he is a stranger? I mean, how can I?
THE PLOT
The plot revolves around the land of Gaya,  which is composed of two continents : the Land Of The Rising Sun, and The Land Of The Setting Sun.  The book primarily revolves around the Land Of The Rising Sun, and starts cryptically with the prophecy of a destroyer who will rise and rid the Land of Gaya from the scourge of Man.
The plot then abrupty changes course, and veers towards a King whose Son has to be saved; every son born to the King has been murdered by his enemies; the newly born seventh prince is sent away right at birth to the Land Of The Rising Sun…and thus starts the saga of Agni. Right at the start, Agni’s fiancé  is murdered brutally, setting of a hunt for the killer. The lady, before dying, draws a mysterious symbol  – and the hunt for the truth, in the absence of any evidence, starts off with the hunt for the meaning of this cryptic and unknown symbol.
THE ANALYSIS
First off, nothing I write hereon is going to take away from one basic fact : the book is unputdownable; a page-turner that will keep you engrossed right from the opening lines, till the last word on the last page. Credit where credit is due; the book is a good read, that much is granted. The pace is relentless, and the plot moves forward at a tremendous pace, which goes a long way towards hiding the negatives of the narrative.
The story unfolds effortlessly and is relatively easy to follow and get engrossed in; the quest for the mysterious symbol is well handled, and well fleshed out. The sub-plots connect with each other, and are interesting enough as well as off-beat, leading to continued interest throughout. The net result is the feeling of relentless pace and non-stop action as the story progresses without stagnating in any place. While not engrossing, the connect made with the reader is strong enough to ensure interest.
The characterisation is minimalistic in style and substance; the characters build up over the course of the book by inference and sequences in the story, rather than explicit definition. The upside is a slow build-up of a connect with the central characters; problem is that the method adopted leads to a lack of a strong enough connect with the characters, leading to a mild confusion and an amorphous impact when viewed in totality.
Part of the reason is the setting, which is of a mystical new land; the diverse sub-plots and the absence of full clarity impedes understanding of both the story as well as impedes the development of the characters. You just fail to connect with most; Agni is a notable exception, as is Vrish and Lysandra.  You develop  a strong mental image of these three central roles; all the rest are rather amorphous by comparison.
The second problem with this follow from the first : the entire story, its plots and sub-plots have been inadequately fleshed out in this, the first part of a series. This may be deliberate; we shall have to see the other books of the series; this is a distinct possibility, given the relatively clear definition achieved of Agni and Lysandra in particular, as well the overall handling of their sequences. The storyline is totally alien to us, and we just fail to make any connect whatsoever with the basic concept of Gaya; it would help a lot if the introductory chapters were more fleshed out. As things stand, you are exposed to the concept slowly, spread over the entire book. While the pace mitigates this; the overall effect could have been done much better, making this book a masterpiece, rather than just a good book. And the book is good : well worth a read, make no mistake.
I rate the book 3 stars out of 5, or rather 7 stars out of 10. Worth a read, that is true. Even a few days after the reading, I can still picturise Agni in my mind : that should be self-explanatory. But the questions remain, strong and ever-present, coupled with an insufficient understanding of the entire story. Maybe I ought to wait for the full story to come out; which is why I am not going into plot holes as I perceive them; maybe they will connect up in the later parts….