October 30, 2006

Beyond the figures

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Seema Chishti has written an insightful article in The Indian Express (Minority Report, in numbers). It brings to light how the Muslim cause in India is a political card. Unfortunately, even the media seems to have fallen for this bait. Two extremes represent Muslims in the media - Muslims who have been accused of violent acts (so labelled 'terrorists') and victims of what is perceived to be an oppressive religion. Though I quite agree with Ms. Chishti's thoughts, the views in this blog are entirely my own.

The committee headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar has been 'revealing' figures about the sad state of Indian Muslims in every aspect - employment, literacy and income distribution. I do not understand to what end the Prime Minister has appointed this particular commitee (not that the others are doing ground-breaking work)? We know the state of Indian Muslims in India. Just quantifying the gravity of the situation is definitely not helping matters. After 60 years of Independence, Muslims who chose to stay with their mother country, who fought for its freedom, are still looked upon with suspicion - their minoritry status being exploited for political purposes.

There are two sides to this coin. I don't blame only the government, as the community itself has not been very forthcoming. They perceive an exxagerated hostility by the government, and refuse to bring in any change. Firstly, I think the government should focus on welfare on secular terms in all poverty-stricken areas of the country. If, according to the figures available, Muslims are proportionately poor, they will also benefit proportionately. Secondly, the media should ensure that religious undertones are avoided in any related news story.

For the community itself, they need to have a voice of their own. For this, they must end their internal differences. Why don't madarsas, which are being given a bad name, bring their representatives out and speak to the media instead of avoiding them or entering into meaningless arguments? If there are stereotypes being built about Muslims, we need to see how we helped create them, and then help in breaking them down. Muslim India desperately needs a sane, rational and progressive voice. While Islam recognises no intermediaries between man and God, the people who call themselves our leaders must first earn that title by washing away the moss that has gathered on the community by its own inertia.

October 29, 2006

Marriages of convenience?

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Many would not agree that infidelity in marriage or a committed relationship is a new phenomenon. It is not. The inclination to digress is an instinct present in every man and woman. However, I think people have mistaken freedom for lack of stability in the modern age. Yet, one can argue that infidelity was as prevalent earlier as it is today – it was just not out in the open. I think the tendency to be disloyal has increased with the changing definition of marriage and relationships. While earlier, relationships were about sacrifice, now they are about convenience. Nobody wants to give up any part of their lives for their spouse. The husband doesn’t want to lose his ‘freedom’ and the woman doesn’t want to compromise on her career. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with that. It’s just that I don’t see the commitment anymore. People seem to be thinking only about themselves. They seem to forget that any relationship requires a give and take. While I may not be qualified for writing on such a topic as I am not married, I have observed enough from everyday life to come to the conclusion that marriage is not considered a sacred institution anymore.

Coming back to the aspect of infidelity, it may not be new, but it is a growing one. Couples are not as dedicated to spending time on working out their problems anymore. Like everything else, they want express solutions – which lead to express relationships. Nothing good comes out of it, however, and only weakens the belief in the concept of marriage. I think we must not blindly go ahead trying to create new paths in any direction. It is always better to learn something from the values of previous generations. They may not have had the best marriages, but they were willing to strive to keep them going. I find it disheartening that couples have the smallest of excuses for indulging in infidelity. They may not have the same preferences or have their points of difference. But who doesn’t? Does that give you the right to trample on your spouse's trust and love? Today, we need to respect (and maybe, reassess) the boundaries recommended by religious and social norms. They are there for a reason.

October 18, 2006

Justice finally dawns

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Yesterday, 17th Oct 2006, was a great day for the Indian people. Yesterday Priyadarshini Mattoo's murderer's acquittal was reversed. Yesterday, the judicial system looked at itself in the mirror, and decided to clean the dirt. The High Court is Delhi was shocked how a murderer and rapist like Santosh Kumar Singh could have been acquitted despite all the evidence against him. It was surprised that an accused like him could be cleared on "benefit of doubt." It is clear that some judges, Delhi Police, and even CBI officials clearly played with the evidence to free the murderer, who is the son of a senior police officer. Himself a lawyer, some of his friends are still on his side, and had a brawl with mediapersons outside the court. All said and done, I am relieved that justice is still alive. In justice lies true democracy, and the day the voice of truth dies in our country, we will cease to be a democracy.

Loopholes, however, remain. It took ten years to put one murderer behind bars, though all evidence was against him. Yet, he will pay for it now. If we persevere, and the courts continue to pull up errants, we can make this country a better place. Nowhere is the voice of the common man as loud and clear as in India, let's take advantage of that. We need to support justice, even if it sometimes goes against the ruling class.

The judiciary also needs to put a system in place where this justice permeates to the grass root level. While high profile cases like Priyadarshini Mattoo and Jessica Lal receive a lot of media coverage, what about the crimes against women that happen everyday? Do those cases (if any proceedings are actually initiated) carry on for years on end? Maybe they do. The proposed reforms to the Indian Police system will bring corrupt officers under the scanner. So will the empowering of IAS officers to deny unacceptable orders of their superiors. Let's not forget the implications of the RTI (right to information) Act that empowers Indian citizens. The tools are right there, but their success depends on you and me.

October 8, 2006

Fear the mosquito

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What place does the tiny mosquito have in the ecosystem? Very insignificant, to say the least. Yet, the very same insect is bringing humanity down to its knees. Here in Delhi, the mere sight of a mosquito fills one with dread. Dengue is the much feared disease, taking a greater toll by the day. And the threat is not unfounded, it is unfortunately, very real. Besides fear, there is also human suffering. It's heart-wrenching to see that people are lying on the floors of hospitals (not themselves earmarks of cleanliness) waiting for medical attention. Which brings me to the basic question: is cleanliness such a difficult goal to achieve for the government? We plan to host the Commonwealth Games in four years, but can we succeed in doing that while neglecting basic amenities?

I do not need to specify the civic disasters which plague Delhi. Power cuts and lack of adequate water supply are just part of it. Subways are havens for filth, breeding insects and stray animals. Sewers in the smaller colonies are left open. Only with the fear of dengue on their heads, have city dwellers gone ahead to close their sewers at their own expense. Garbage bins are nowhere in sight in most residential areas - where are the people to dispose of their garbage? They have no choice but to pay garbage collectors who dispose of it wherever convenient.

Something is missing here. Some link, some connect on the part of the Delhi government to take its civic role seriously. Efforts are usually triggered by a disease outbreak or a visit by a foreign official (Even then, only those areas are spruced up which falls on the foreign official's route!). Again, there is something lacking in Delhi-ites too. They dont think twice before throwing out an empty packet of chips from their car on to the road. They see nothing wrong with spitting out pan even in cyber cafes. And nothing can beat the man I recently saw relieving himself on a newly-constructed flyover. Unless he has a bladder problem, that man should be behind bars, if you ask me.