Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Is Homosexuality natural?

I was reading some of the news items on this topic. Most of the authors seem to address this issue using the words like ‘unnatural’, ‘abnormal’, as if it is an ailment or handicap that can be remedied or corrected. Here’s an article that appeared in THE HINDU recently:

Mohana Krishnaswamy, who says that he is a ‘paramedical person by qualification’, writes,

“ …arrested on charges of homosexual practice. The remedy to that should be to educate the police and make them more human, to sympathise with the conditions of abnormality in human behaviour…”

“While we can sympathise with people practising homosexuality, it is an altogether socially, ethically and medically unacceptable idea to treat them as normal. There are no homosexuals among any species of animals. Such practice is fundamentally against nature. With all our sympathy, we have to treat them as abnormal.”

Before I start giving out my position on this, I would like define certain terms, like what is ‘natural’, ‘normal’ and ‘human’? Natural is something that is found in the nature without the intervention of man. Trees, rocks, mountains are natural, while plastic is artificial. Sex, suckling, reproduction, baby care, etc are natural, since it is found in certain higher order animals. These are natural and biological. Feelings, conscience, sense of justice, ability to produce music and art, etc, are human, and not necessarily found even in higher order mammals. These are natural and in addition, they are human.

Now, do we accept everything that is biological and natural as acceptable? Not really! Killing another human (not for food) can easily be shown to be natural, but we do not accept it. There are certain traits which are found in humans, like war, kill for sport (not for food), rape, etc, which are natural to humans but not necessarily desirable. Therefore a certain sense of law and order and its affiliated institutions are introduced, which are entirely human, to suppress, control or curb certain human traits. Therefore, though certain things are natural, we consider some of them to be inhuman. Now what is normal? When something deviates from what is expected, it is 'not normal'. For example, deafness or blindness is considered 'not normal'. It is deficiency or a handicap by which a person will not function the same way as any normal person would (of course, this is highly debatable). A person who is born with a deformity of hand will not be able to perform certain actions the way a normal person would and hence it is considered abnormality.

Coming to homosexuality, Is it ‘unnatural’, ‘abnormal’, or ‘inhuman’?

Homosexuality is natural

Homosexuality is found in many other animal and bird species. Wikipedia lists nearly 500 species of mammals, birds, fish and other animals which display homosexuality. Recently a museum opened up in Oslo, Norway, exhibiting homosexuality among animals. There is documentary evidence of homosexual behavior in giraffes, penguins, parrots, beetles, whales and dozens of other creatures. One of the exhibit statement says- "We may have opinions on a lot of things, but one thing is clear -- homosexuality is found throughout the animal kingdom, it is not against nature". Geir Soeli, the project leader of the exhibition entitled "Against Nature", says: "Homosexuality has been observed for more than 1,500 animal species, and is well documented for 500 of them." According to this news report, Greek philosopher Aristotle observed apparent homosexual behavior among hyenas 2,300 years ago but evidence of animal homosexuality has often been ignored by researchers, perhaps because of distaste, lack of interest or fear or ridicule. Bonobos, a type of chimpanzee, very close to humans according genetic studies, are among extremes in having sex with either males or females, apparently as part of social bonding. According to Soeli, "Bonobos are bisexuals, all of them.”

The Oslo Natural History Museum concludes human homosexuality cannot be viewed as "unnatural".

Homosexuality is normal

Homosexuality is found in every culture, every religion, every nation, in both female and male, and at all ages. It has been found since time immemorial and is in fact as old as human itself. It is not something very different from a left-handedness, which is seen in minority population but is still normal. It is not a handicap by which a homosexual is not able to perform certain physical or mental activities which a heterosexual can. Except for sexual orientation, a homosexual is similar to a heterosexual. It is neither a genetic defect nor a biological abnormality. Homosexuals are normal people with a different sexual orientation.

Is homosexuality legal, moral, inhuman or common?

One has to understand that law is made by man to control man. There were many things that were illegal once, like pre-marital sex, which are now completely legal. While some legal things in past, like slavery, are made illegal now. Homosexuality is legal in very few parts of the world, and in most parts of the world it remains illegal. Coming to whether it is ethical or moral, I don’t want to debate. It is up to individual’s opinion; I leave it to my readers. I do not think it is inhuman either since it does not involve in encroaching on other people’s rights or freedom. It does not bring harm to other people or cause inconvenience to them. There is no reason to treat it as a crime.

But yes, I agree that is not common, and if it is, it is hidden, and hence most of us do not know about it. Just because we do not know about it doesn’t make it go away, make it unnatural or abnormal.

Conclusion

Homosexuality is completely natural, completely normal, but yes, it is uncommon. We may have grown up not knowing about it, but there is a way to teach the young generations about it. As a kid, I haven’t known many things- I didn’t know about sex or pornography. There is a way one can know about these things. If the teaching is shunned or if it is done in the negative light as seen from the above article written in THE HINDU, we will not be able to understand it and may grow negative or wrong prejudices and start targeting homosexuals.


To consider homosexuality to be unnatural or abnormal is completely wrong. It’s not an ailment that can be cured; it’s not a disease that can be eradicated. It is not a mental condition that can be corrected through therapy. If your kid is homosexual, accept him/her. If you are a believer in God, consider the kid to be a creation of that God. If that God has created homosexuals in animals, so he did in humans. And if you are an atheist, like me, I don’t think you need to be told anything, you already know it.


Related links:

[1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10].

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Notes from Kashmiri Muslims

I wanted my readers to know how Kashmiri Muslim feel about Indian rule. I took some of the notes from different blogs to get a picture of how they feel.

Ali, based in Srinagar, Kashmir, India, writes:

“Another incident of unprovoked killing by the CRPF yesterday underscores the fact that no matter how sincere the intentions of the politicians in Delhi may be, the decision to harass or not harass, or in yesterdays instance, to kill or not to kill, lies in the hands of the trigger-happy Indian security forces patrolling the streets of Kashmir.” [03 July 2006]

“…we should look at Iraq and what is happening there, and then draw parallels. Do you think that the US president or any body in the top administration ordered the disgusting and abhorrent acts committed in Haditha? where almost two dozen innocent civilians were shot in the head; the victims included infants. The answer to this question is a definite NO and I am certain they were genuinely saddened by this ghastly act…”

“Now there are too many paralles to be drawn when we consider the Haditha incident and what is happening in Kashmir. If we ask the same questions whether the general public in India condones the daily violations of human rights by their security forces in Kashmir. The answer to the best of my knowledge is that an overwhelimg majority of Indians would be surprised and shocked to know how the daily life of innocent Kashmiris is unbearable because of the constant interference in their lives by the Indian forces.” [05 June 2006]

Zarafshan, India, writes:

“As I entered my classroom that day, I heard someone whisper, “Militant”. I am a Kashmiri who believes that the Indian occupation of Kashmir is illegal. My nationality is Kashmiri, and I openly declare it while constantly denying to be labeled as an Indian. I believe that I cannot be Indian by just having an Indian passport; I have to be Indian by heart, which is not true in my case.”

“…nationality is not something you pretend. It is a feeling within you, something which cannot be forced upon you. I have no patriotic feelings for India. I used to sing “jana gana mana” at school as a kid and truly felt patriotic while singing it. But the next few years changed my perception completely. I witnessed things which pulled me away from the patriotic feeling which “jana gana mana” gave me. I saw humiliation, torture and killings around me. Kashmiris were being thrashed and executed. It was no less than genocide which continues unchecked and unabated even today…”

“As a result, the only nationality that I associate myself with is Kashmiri and this infuriates many people. So were my class mates infuriated. They were looking at things from their own point of view, totally and completely ignorant of how it feels to be a Kashmiri.”

“India is their motherland, and they will never hear anything against it.”

“The only conclusion they could derive from my way of thinking was that I wanted Kashmir to be part of Pakistan. Some even thought I was a Pakistani.”

“Probably I should not blame them, because either they are totally ignorant about Kashmir history or they are aware but deprived of the real news from Kashmir.”

“…children in Kashmir grew up amidst guns and bullets, with death hovering at every corner. Even going to school was dangerous with students having to run for their lives time and again.”

Talking about Indians, he says, “Did they ever do that as school children? Did they ever have a gun pointed at them? Did they ever have their home ransacked? Did they have their brothers and fathers beaten up? Did any of their relatives ever go to jail for no reason? Did anyone in their family get killed at the hands of the army?”

“All they did was go to school and return to finish their homework and play. They would go for picnics and parties. And while they were doing that… we were living under the constant shadow of death. Guns were pointed at us from bunkers at every nook and corner of the valley.”

“Do they know how many people their army has killed in fake encounters? The same army they are proud of, the ones who ‘won’ them the Kargil war. They are the ones who make lives of common Kashmiris miserable.”

“And the truth gets dusted under the carpet yet again, thanks to the Indian media. Probably they have no clue about the human rights violations in Kashmir. And if by chance they do, they do nothing about it.”

“And as years pass by, many from the Kashmiri youth drift further apart from India. Many completely disassociate themselves from the country.”

“And if today I do not consider myself Indian, all these things have a role to play. In addition to this, history of Kashmir tells me that we were always destined to be free, destined to be the paradise on earth free of communal bias and hatred. And if expressing such feelings in a ‘democratic’India makes me a militant, I am certainly proud to be one!”

Kashmir, Kashmir, India, writes:

“The movie, Fanaa, starts with Kajol saluting the Indian flag and this act sets the tone for the entire movie: of Kashmiris being patriotic Indians, of an Islamic movement being thrust upon them.”

“If all Kashmiris were patriotic Indians, there wouldn’t be the need of 0.7 million troops to ‘control them’ and a movement cannot be thrust upon a people until and unless they are ‘fed up’ of the present regime.”

“The reality is that Kashmiris in Azad Kashmir will never vote for India, they have never shown any inclination for India. They may want independence from Pakistan but they can't even imagine in their wildest dreams to be a part of India.” [10 June 2006]

“There are two Kashmirs within a Kashmir. No, not the Pakistan and Indian Administered parts. These two Kashmirs exists within the Valley of Kashmir. There is a Kashmir all of you know about, which when searched for on Google gives thousands of results and there is a Kashmir, which doesn’t ever show up on google search. And it is this Kashmir which matters!”

“Then there is another Kashmir. The Kashmir of the people. It’s people to whom it has and always will belong. It is the Kashmir that scoffs at Integral Part and Jugular Vein claims. It is the Kashmir that has not yet been captured by the lens, nor can it be. It is the Kashmir that comes out in the dark of the night or the breeze of the morning for identification parades. It is the Kashmir that wakes up in the morning to the headlines of death and destruction... It is the Kashmir whose life is dependent on an identity card. It is the Kashmir that falls prey to a bullet of the military or the militant as it walks through the crowded bazaars or tries to find a place in the over crowded buses. It is the Kashmir that makes a Que at the only telephone fee collection center and falls prey to a bomb many a times. It is the Kashmir that weeps within as it has no one to talk for it. It is a Kashmir that sees silently but is waking up within: slowly but surely. This is the Kashmir you do not know of.” [05 May 2006]

Monday, October 23, 2006

Supreme Court ruling on Afzal case

I have already defined my position on Mohammed Afzal case. But here, I would like to look at few statements used in the judgment.

The Supreme Court says: “The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.” (emphasis mine)

We always believe that our Judiciary should uphold constitution and the legal system without getting biased or prejudiced by the opinions of the people or majorities. We believe our penal system is not to punish the offender but to rehabilitate him.

Do we give death sentence to satisfy the collective conscience of the society? Does the convict get a sentence based on the crime or based on what the collective conscience has felt about it?

The Supreme Court says: “As is the case with most of the conspiracies, there is and could be no direct evidence of the agreement amounting to criminal conspiracy. However, the circumstances, cumulatively weighed, would unerringly point to the collaboration of the accused Afzal with the slain ‘fidayeen’ terrorists”. (emphasis mine)

When did we start using circumstantial evidence, however cumulative it is, to be unerring? And when did we start using ‘no direct evidence’ to award a death sentence, which we agree should be awarded in ‘rarest of the cases’?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

650,000 Iraqis die in US war on Iraq

According to an estimate made by Johns Hopkins researchers, published at The Lancet, “…as of July, 2006, there have been 654,965 excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the war, which corresponds to 2.5% of the population in the study area”. Dr. Gilbert Burnham, lead author from Bloomberg School of Public Health, says, "To put these numbers in context, deaths are occurring in Iraq now at a rate more than three times that from before the invasion of March 2003".

Whereas the U.S. Department of Defense says at least 2,754 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq.

Therefore, we have a ‘War on Terror’ waged against Iraq on the pretext that (1) it possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, which were never found; (2) were responsible for 9/11 when none of the hijackers were Iraqi; (3) had links with Al Qaida, which is unproven. For 3,000 killed in 9/11, America kills 650,000 Iraqis waging a war on certain guesses and hunches that turn out to be untrue.

Iraqis of course do not take this well. No population on this planet would take this well.

These are excerpts from Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily of Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency:

Ahmad, a local doctor in Ramadi, a town in Iraq, tells IPS, "This city has been facing the worst of the American terror and destruction for more than two years now, and the world is silent." According to him, US forces destroy the infrastructure and cut the water and electricity "for days and even weeks is routine reaction to the resistance… Guys of the resistance do not need water and electricity, it's the families that are being harmed, and their lives which are at stake."

According to a
local tribal chief, Nawaf, the civilians are being punished for the resistance. He says, the US forces “have the bad habit of cutting all of the essential services after every attack. They said they came to liberate us, but look at the slow death they are giving us every day."

These actions actually make Iraqis more strong in their support for the resistance.
According to, Abu Juma'a, a local tribal leader, "…if they think they will make us kneel by these criminal acts, they are wrong. If they increase the pressure, the resistance will increase the reaction. We see this pattern repeated so often now."

The local police force raised by US is not cooperating either.
A police lieutenant told IPS, "Now 90 percent of the force has decided to quit rather than kill our brothers or get killed by them for the wishes of the Americans."

In another report from the same authors reporting from a school in Iraq:

IPS reports: The children are growing up in occupied Iraq - and they are resisting it.

According to an 11-year-old Mustafa, "Americans are bad… They killed my family." Another kid cries, “God will send all Americans to hellfire."

The teacher in the classroom, Shyamaa told IPS, "How can we teach them forgiveness when they see Americans killing their family members every day… Words cannot cover the stream of blood and these signs of destruction, and words cannot hide the daily raids they see."

Outside the school, a man boasts of his son, "I am proud that he is a hero fighting these Americans. And they used to talk to us about our human rights."

A farmer told IPS, "They keep asking us to hand over resistance fighters to them, so that they can torture them in Abu Ghraib, Falcon base, Baghdad airport and other detention centers."

The authors believe that the resistance fighters are gaining support, far from being handed over.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dalits In India: Movie Clip

I strongly recommend viewing this movie clip. Don’t stop it half way even if you feel disgusted with some of the stuff you see. See it all the way to the end!







Is there a way, any way, we can create a nation where people do not have to feel so alienated?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Kashmir VII: Some questions answered

[One may want to read Kashmir I, II, III, IV, V, VI to get the premise. Here, I answer some of the questions that arose during the discussions on prior articles].


Can an Independent Kashmir sustain as a nation?

When in doubt, think of Bhutan! There are many countries that are far smaller than Kashmir Valley which survive as nations. The concept that a nation should have a large land mass and big population with abundant natural resources is unique to populations of big countries. There are examples galore that suggest that a nation does not have to fit this description. Vanuatu, Belize, Luxembourg, Andorra, etc, do not have large land mass nor large populations but survive as nations. How about Lesotho and Gambia who are completely surround one single country? What about their protection? Though China laid claim to Bhutan it accepts its existence a bit hesitatingly because it is protected by India. There are many small countries on the planet whose security is guaranteed by big brothers. Such a protection to Kashmir is not unthinkable.


Some Indians ask ‘Is it worth it- to stay so small? Why not stay with a big country and enjoy the benefits?’ I wish the answer was that simple! If it was the only prevailing rationale, then we should be seeing only big countries in the world right now. They shouldn’t be breaking up into smaller nation states. The whole of Central America should be one big nation! Nations are not necessarily born out of economic reasons. They are born out of aspirations of its people to govern themselves. If a majority in a certain land believe they are ethnically, linguistically, culturally, racially, or religiously different from the other parts, and if they wish to be independent, they can form a nation. There are no preset rules to form a nation. Being landlocked and mountainous doesn’t seem to deter Switzerland from performing as a nation. As we saw recently with Soviet Union and Yugoslavia breaking up, there is a potential for many nations to form, and as seen with Germany uniting, many nations could merge. Every nation will have to find its own set of ingredients to survive and develop- there are no rigid parameters that are equally applicable. The notion that it may not survive economically or will not be able to sustain itself is not a valid reason for denying independence. 

Do people in Kashmir Valley really want an Independent country?

It looks like they want it. There are no valid statistics to ascertain this since India never wanted to face the reality. But all the Kashmiri protests, their complete renunciation of every Indian effort, their lack of faith in Indian institutions including constitution and local elections, their support to freedom movement allowing foreign mercenaries to fight India, etc, reflect their disassociation with India. India does not entertain any talks that include independence to Kashmir, so how is one to ascertain the exact statistics? Some readers quoted an article in Dawn, which in turn refers to TOI:

A poll by TOI indicates that nearly 53.9% in Kashmir Valley ask for Independence. One should not quickly conclude that other 46.1% want to be with India. How many want to be with Pakistan, and how many have not expressed their opinion is not mentioned in this report. 

What about Hindu Pandits?

The story of Kashmir is an unresolved issue that has its origins in Partition of India. For a long time, we covered up all the Kashmiri protests and misgivings, and pretended all was well by running puppet administrations. The time caught up, and after a series of bungled-up episodes, people of Kashmir Valley rose in protest against Indian Administration during 1980s. However, most Indians would like to believe otherwise- that it is a Pakistan-sponsored program; that it is an Islamic fundamentalist ideology in tune with what’s going elsewhere. By clubbing the situation with these bogeymen, we do not take any responsibility and instead lay the blame onto the forces that lie outside.

Imagine the whole of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to Pakistan during Partition. Wouldn’t those quarter-million Hindus have migrated into India back in 1947-48 leaving behind their properties, just like million others? The actions of Kashmiri Muslims that have led to migration of Pandits in 1989 are inexcusable. [The story of the migration of 1989-90 is itself mired in controversy where Jagmohan’s actions are questioned by Pandits who ask if indeed there was a real threat that warranted this migration.]

The problem of Hindu Pandits is a problem of India. It has to deal with it the way it has dealt with million other Indians who have migrated into India from Pakistan during Partition. No practical solution (unless India resorts to the methods employed by Israel) can envision their return to Kashmir Valley. It’s a sad reality that India has to wake up to. Do Hindus of India lay claim to their ancestral property in Pakistan’s Punjab? They do not. It is understood to be a consequence of our Partition. In an effort to separate conjoined twins, Partition has performed a surgical procedure and it resulted in death of more than half a million people and migrations of 15 million. We do not lay claim to the lands lost nor ask for compensation for the lives lost. We see it as a result of the decisions we made (during Partition) and bear the consequences to provide aid, help and support to those victims.

Can India give freedom only to Kashmir Valley?

Nations change shape all the time. They add new lands and lose few lands. Some change their identity; some new ones are formed from old countries. Nothing is forever- especially not the nations. 

But for most Indians, most things in life are sacred, including their map, their National song and all associated symbols. They believe in sanctifying them for eternity. Most Indians are reluctant to see any breakup, even that of their states. They impose sanctity to all shapes and fight tooth-and-nail to protect it. For them, LoC is sacred and so is the indivisibility of all states including Jammu and Kashmir. 

The state of Jammu and Kashmir consists of three distinct regions with different geographies, ethnic compositions and histories. To club them into one does not make sense- we will not be able solve the problem that will satisfy all. The aspirations of these three regions are different as well. While the people of Kashmir Valley ask for Independence (or want to merge with Pakistan), most others (in Ladakh and Jammu) do not. Even during the partition, it was discussed whether it made sense to club this entire region as one entity. But since, this region was under one king, it was thought appropriate not to complicate things (since we used the same argument for annexing some kingdoms into our country).

Granting Independence to Kashmir Valley will satisfy the aspirations of its people that originate during Partition of India. Retaining Ladakh and Jammu will keep our commitment towards these people who wish to remain with India.

Is ‘what is good for India’ good for Kashmir?

Many Indians believe that 'what is good for India' should be good for Kashmir too. We can’t imagine, believe nor accept that Kashmiri Muslim are actually fighting us including our values- the same values that we cherish and believe to be universal. Indians believe that these Kashmiri do not know what they want. We want to educate them and teach them how benevolent we are, and why it is in their interest to be with us. We want to tell them the greatness of our institutions- democracy, freedom, liberty to women, and our secular principles, and show them our track record that we are so proud of (in comparison to those next door). We want to explain to them how being with India is in their best interest- like enjoying good economy and a better standard of living (unlike the other ‘backward’ neighbors). We cannot imagine how Kashmir wants to become a ‘regressive Islamic state’ when they have a choice to be with ‘progressive democratic and secular nation’ such as ourselves? They ask, “Can’t Kashmiri see that their youth has better future with us than in an independent Kashmir? Look at what happened to Pakistan and Bangladesh? Can’t they see the obvious?”

This was the exact mindset white man had when he was the colonial master. The white man’s burden- his duty to civilize the world, led him to conquer continents, wage wars, and kill millions in the process, all in the name of that single belief, that he was ordained by certain higher power to instill such institutions in uncivilized world. Some leaders in Britain (including Churchill) were opposed to granting independence to India because they believed Indians were better off with British Empire. They could not imagine nor believe Indians will be able rule themselves. 

Churchill, speaking to an audience in London in 1930, claimed that if the British left Indian sub-continent, then "an army of white janissaries, officered if necessary from Germany, will be hired to secure the armed ascendancy of the Hindu”

Few months later, he said, "to abandon India to the rule of the Brahmins would be an act of cruel and wicked negligence". According to him, "India will fall back quite rapidly through the centuries into the barbarism and privations of the Middle Ages".

Speaking in 1931, Churchill said: 

At present the Government of India is responsible to the British Parliament… To transfer that responsibility to this highly artificial and restricted oligarchy of Indian politicians would be a retrograde act. It would be a shameful act. It would be an act of cowardice, desertion and dishonour. It would bring grave material evils, both upon India and Great Britain…” 

Indians echo such similar sentiments now when asked about Independence to Kashmir. “How are you going to guarantee the rights of all sects? How are you going to guarantee rights of women? Will this country not go Islamic the Taliban way? How will they survive as a nation?”

The contemporary American imperialism is based on the notion that ‘what is good for America is good for the world’. Once a major chunk of population and administration believe in this notion, it becomes easy to manipulate its people to do anything sinister, including waging a war in the name of promoting those American values in foreign lands. No wonder, George Bush II had popular support before invasion of Iraq since it was supposedly ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’, designed to liberate the oppressed people and install ‘American style’ democracy there. Now we see the Iraqis fighting these forced values vehemently and vociferously, blowing themselves up in the process. Most Indians grow up believing 'what is good for an Indian' should be good for Kashmiri as well. If need be, we would like to hold that population at gunpoint to instill our values into them. We don’t realize that such forceful shoving of values make those populations choke on them; they reject them by vomiting it out.

What most of these Indians fail to understand is that the notion of 'what is good' is different for different people. A Danish jail cell may provide all amenities, including TV, daily food, good clothing and work, but an Indian would rather live in a slum in Delhi to be free. Freedom! That single word that spawned so many struggles of mankind, including our glorious Independence Movement in which we wanted to define it according to our terms, and yet we are now defining it for others, making it paradoxical.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why do we criticize our nations?

Most people in the world grow up with prejudices and preset notions ingrained into them by the schools, parents and the media. This is no different for people of India. For example, an Indian talking to Pakistani is confronted with ‘gross distortion’ of history- it baffles him that what they learn is completely ‘untrue’. That’s because we are taught history in different ways.

Most Indians grow up knowing the map of India to be such (which includes the beautiful head shape of Jammu and Kashmir). We do not question its authenticity. Therefore, when someone depicts the reality (which shows PoK, Northern regions and Aksai Chin outside India), we become very angry and resort to protest.

Most Indians do not know their constitution either- hence an unnecessary debate arises when some groups resist mandatory singing of a ‘patriotic’ song. The state, the media and the system participate in irresponsible mass education and after awhile it becomes unchallenged – even blatant lies pass on as absolute truths.

In countries like India where people lean more towards authoritarian setup compared to libertarian, questioning authority is tantamount to being traitorous or unpatriotic, and therefore all kinds of critical introspection is condemned as sacrilegious. This unquestioning faith and loyalty in the system is extreme in matters of nation (all army actions are absolved) and its enemies (targeting certain alien religions within), but is completely renounced when it comes to matter of adhering to law and order (here it becomes very subjective).

For example, the incidents and events of Kashmir, a matter of patriotic importance, are portrayed to Indian masses in a deliberate and intended light. Most Indians grow up knowing 'Indianized' history; they know only the atrocities committed by Muslims against Hindu Pandits; they are aware of mass killings carried out by terrorists, who happen to be ‘foreign mercenaries enjoying Pakistan support’, but are unaware of all other popular movements in that region. Most Indians do not get the same exposure to the role of Indian politics in Kashmir, role of Indian Army, and the nature of local and indigenous freedom movements. Even if they hear it, they dismiss it as mass propaganda of Pakistan, Islamists, or of vested interests that want to see India fail.

Such continued prejudices, misinformation campaigns and selected hearing result in a mass hypnosis and soon the actual facts and data are out of the door to be replaced with ideology. We soon have a breed of young fanatic Indians who believe they can lay down their life to defend Kashmir. Against whom?

Every nation that has to hide its mistakes has to create a bogeyman, someone who can take blame for all the incidents and events that seem to question the legitimacy of the nation’s mistakes and misadventures. Pakistan has always been our bogeyman and now the new entrant is Islamic fundamentalism.

You can explain away almost every incident and event that takes place in Kashmir by blaming these two culprits. A terrorist action against Army barracks: it was done by Pakistani infiltrators. A mass protest against Indian rule: it was instigated and funded by Pakistan. A suicide killer blew up a bridge: the innocent Kashmiri youth are brainwashed by Islamic groups in Pakistan. Kashmiris do not turn up to vote for local elections: they were threatened by Pakistani and Islamic terrorists. So on so forth. This argument is used again and again, so much so that nobody questions it anymore, because the lie has been repeated so many times it has now become truth.

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it”- Adolf Hitler

Questioning our government’s stance and oneself is only the first step towards rational thought. Most of us, the critics, want you to ask questions. You don’t have to believe what we say. But you may want to listen to what we say because it presents the other side of the story. You may already know THE truth but what we present is the OTHER truth. In our attempt to present the other side of the story, we may not repeat certain true stories that you have already heard.

Most of us who criticize Indian rule in Kashmir, American aggression, Israel occupation, are not Islamists nor do we believe in radical Islam as practiced in certain nations or as promoted by some terrorist outfits. Even if we were given a choice we would not go live in those theocratic nations. That’s why you find Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore living in US although they are its biggest critics.

Most of us who criticize our nations are ensconced in democratic and free institutions in which we take pride. The reason why we take pride in our nations is because it allows and accepts that criticism, our voice and expression, however bizarre it may sound. We believe this criticism is necessary to provide the necessary checks and balances to otherwise a strong and autocratic government that feeds on fascistic, nationalistic or religious jingoistic majorities.

We believe these nations are great because of this very reason- that it allows people to speak their opinion and criticize their nations- each of its actions and symbols. Many people who do not like my writings berate me and tell me to shut up. They say, “How can you criticize your own nation and talk against it? How can you be not proud of the very nation that gave you shelter, food, etc? Aren’t you grateful to the nation which has given you this freedom? You must be an Islamist or a communist!”

We run into a paradox when we encounter such people- these first-generation immigrants and those redneck Americans who have never understood the greatness of their own nation; these urban educated Indians who have not understood the greatness of their own nation. Why do they want me to stop criticizing my nation that I take pride in, when the very reason I take pride in it is because it allows that criticism?

Most overzealous people in an obsessive effort to combat their enemy become just like their enemy, but on the other side of the coin. The Hindus who fight Islam want to portray Hinduism as monotheistic and rigid just like Islam but on the opposite side (which according to them is a good side). The Indians who fight Pakistan want to curb all voices of dissidence within its nations just the way Pakistan does. The Americans who fight terrorism want their citizens to be grateful of their nations to become just like their enemies they fight- dogmatic and authoritarian, curbing people’s freedom on the name of Patriotic Act. The biggest success of terrorists of 9/11 and the biggest defeat of US is the loss of that American freedom. The Indian side of the story has TADA, POTA, Section 144, Emergency, banning of books, movies, and art shows.

We, the miniscule few critics of India, consider ourselves different kind of champions of India and its institutions. For us, the greatness is not found in ancient texts or Akhand Bharat. We don’t see glory in the remote past nor expansion of our boundaries. Even if a Danish jail cell provides much better living conditions and amenities, we would not recommend it to someone living in slums of Delhi since he is free. We are not proud of our nation when it rules certain people at the point of a gun with a belief that it is actually giving it better facilities and freedom while those people reject all our gestures.

We believe the greatness of this nation is its institutions, though half-built, but still working- which promote modern and universal values. We believe the greatness comes when minorities, backward classes, the poor and downtrodden of this country get the same opportunities, enjoy access to basic amenities (like education, food, water, shelter) and avail the same values which we take pride in. We believe in looking inward to build institutions that give fair trial, equal opportunity, and guarantee for fundamental rights. However, we do not believe in forcing those values down the throats of others- because then it becomes an ideology.

Though India has quickly embraced tools of modernity (like cell phones, cars, internet, etc) it has not completely embraced the values of modernity- equality, tolerance, liberty, and modern science. In an effort to combat its enemies, it is fast eroding all its half-built institutions, to become exactly like its enemies- intolerant of diversity, shunning of modern science, curbing of people’s freedom and aspirations. India, which has been the champion of independence and freedom movements elsewhere has now become the same aggressor it abhorred. It is slowly becoming exactly like its enemy. And we critics do not want that to happen.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mohammed Afzal: Indian Drama

Mohammed Afzal is convicted for his role in attack on Indian Parliament on 13th December 2001. He is given a death sentence.

Indians are not just happy carrying out the verdict of Supreme Court. They want to debate. Good that they debate. They should debate- how else would we have a democratic institution. But then, we don’t know when to stop. Farooq Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, along with other activists made an appeal to Indian Parliament and President of India to provide clemency- otherwise Kashmir would see 50,000 youth protesting and the valley would be up in flames. This is when we make a travesty of our Indian democratic setup.

Can a convict plead for clemency?
Yes

Can a convict plead for review of his trial because he or his family members or anyone else believe that he did not get a fair trial?
Yes

Can a President pardon a convict who has been given a death sentence?
Yes

But can a convict be given clemency on the basis that it will cause huge political turmoil in the country?
Absolutely NO!

If India goes ahead with clemency on the reasons that this death sentence will derail Kashmir peace process, or that it will cause mass-scale riots, or because Kashmir will go up flames once again causing agitation on grand scale, it will set an extremely wrong precedent. And we all have to hang our faces in shame that this is what we brought our country to.

Tomorrow every political group or outfit will ask for clemency on the basis that their state will go in flames otherwise. Where is respect for law of the land? And when will learn where to draw the line?

If Afzal was given too harsh a sentence, it should be challenged in court- another appeal can be made. If Afzal was not given a fair trial, there can be a review of the trial. If Afzal is given clemency by the President of India because of certain personal reason, we should abide by it. Whether one agrees with death sentence or whether one agrees with freedom movement in Kashmir are irrelevant. Law of the land should be upheld. Otherwise we will make mockery of all our institutions that we painfully built for all these years.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Islam vs. Rest of the World III

Post-Ottoman World order

I see the fall of Ottoman Empire as the biggest milestone in the history of Muslim World. What we see in the present Muslim World, the conflicts of nations and cultures, has come about following what happened after WWI.

Breakup of and complete decimation of Ottoman Empire is an important event. Before that, Muslims enjoyed a long standing empire which was relatively stable compared to the events happening in Western Europe. Breakup of Ottoman Empire threw away that blanket of security and suddenly most Muslims of Middle East and Europe found themselves directly under foreign masters. The reaction of West towards people’s movement for freedom in the Muslim World was very different from what was imposed on some other places- like India and South America, for example. Even Lawrence of Arabia who fought alongside with Arabs (Bedouin) later became disillusioned and disappointed when British did not live up to its promises [Sykes-Picot Agreement]. Discovery of oil and creation of Israel in those regions was another key factor. Unlike some Asian and American nations where the West completely renounced its involvement and control, they did not extend the same practice towards many countries of Middle East because of Israel and oil. They carved up many nations and instead of giving up their control they installed puppets in the form of kings and dictators to contain them, to perpetuate their influence and domination and to extract oil.

Muslim World woke up to stark realities after the fall of Ottoman Empire. Before the fall, Muslims were an equal force in the world events, but after the fall, they did not constitute a single and powerful force- they were many small nation states ruled by ineffective and subservient leaders. Caliph was considered center of Muslim World during and after Middle Ages, just the way Rome was and is for most Catholics. When Caliph fell and the Empire was overrun by the West, most Muslims lost their notion of a secure Muslim World. One can ask why Muslims show such affinity to foreign lands- this is the common accusation thrown at Muslims in India- “are your Muslim first and Indian next?” The way most Western Christians show affinity to Rome and Jerusalem and is reflected in the foreign policies of major nations, including US and Britain, the way most Hindus maintain their ties with India as the seat of their civilization, most Muslims of the world consider the seat of their religion in Middle East/Asia Minor and they did not take the fall of Caliph very nicely. Khilafat Movement was used in Indian Independence movement to overthrow British because Muslims in India looked at the fight against British as the fight to restore Caliph. Such mixing of religious with nationalistic fervor in fight for independence is quite prevalent as seen from 1857 War of Independence in India (which started as religious outburst), using Vande Mataram (first to fight Muslims and then to fight British), and Gandhi resorting to many religious overtones in his struggle for Independence.

Muslim World saw its Ottoman Empire broken up into tiny pieces to be mastered over by the puppets of the West. They saw the new and emerging nation states a mere fa├žade of the West to continue their hegemony. When every democratic movement in these regions was mercilessly suppressed by these puppets with the help from the West, Muslims did not trust any interventions from the West as benevolent. They see the West to be hypocrite. Other countries who are now aligning with the West, like Israel, India and Russia, share the same attitude towards Muslims lands. They suppress every democratic institution in these regions. Israel topples democratically elected governments in Palestine and even bombs their offices to kill their leaders. India does not accept elections which bring to power parties it does not approve of. Russia does not recognize local Chechen rule and rolls its tanks to bust them out. No wonder Muslims see in action a nexus between Rest of the World forces against Islamic nations. With no strong nation or centre to represent their faith unlike most other religions which have a centre nation (India for Hindus, Japan for Japanese, China for Sinic, US and Britain for Western Christianity, Russia for Orthodox Christianity), Muslim nations are in disarray and scrambling to find single voice of guidance. Unfortunately, with many weak Muslim nations warring with each other to promote hegemony of the West, most Muslims seem to find that voice in leaders like Osama Bin Laden, and events like bombing of Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

Some of the conflicts which shape the new world order pitting Islam against Rest of the World are discussed below.

Israel-Palestine

One of the root causes for the frustration of Muslim World is Israel-Palestine conflict. Inability of the Rest of the World to implement a peaceful solution to this conflict has resulted in the dawn of Islamic terrorism which was later taken up by many frustrated and disillusioned Muslim populations across the world. How come we don’t see many terrorist and suicide activities from this Muslim World prior to this conflict? Why did we not see terrorism during Ottoman rule which spanned six hundred years?

Each country or people devised its own way of fighting the imperial masters. While Indians took to non-violence (it can be easily argued that it worked only because British believed in law and order and hence respected our movement), most others resorted to violent methods to evict their masters- Indo-China to evict French, South American countries to evict Spanish and Portuguese, Algerians to evict French, etc.

Palestine resorted to violence in various degrees with increasing ferocity as each and every initiative to secure their land failed time and again. Israel has occupied all its lands and rules them with tanks, gun-ships and bulldozers. Muslims in Palestine live in ghettos the way Jews living during World War II before being sent to concentration camps. Here, we see a nation of victims imposing the same punishment they endured onto others legitimizing it all in the name of the suffering they have experienced. Israel has ignored 70 or more UN resolutions and completely broken every international norm in the process. It is supported by the only super power on the planet, United States. Between 1972 and 2001, US vetoed 33 of 35 UN resolutions critical of Israel. While there are many reasons attributed to why US supports Israel and absolves of it all of its war crimes, one of the biggest reasons is religious in nature. Many Jews and Christians in US, including George Bush, believe that Holy Land should be controlled and ruled by Jews when the day of Armageddon comes. Continued support of US to Israel, militarily and economically, does not go well with Palestine and the Muslim World. When the bulldozers, the gun-ships and bombs that raze their buildings are supplied by the West, most Palestine kids who just lost their parents grow up hating the West as much as they hate Israel. Becoming a suicide bomber becomes an easy step. When each and every UN resolution to facilitate a peaceful solution is vetoed and ignored by US and Israel, most of the Muslim World wakes up to the new world order where they witness Clash of Civilizations. And it doesn’t go well with Muslim World when some selected UN resolutions were used as a pretext to wage war against Iraq and now are being used to force Iran into giving up nuclear technology.

Middle East

Muslim’s frustration with the West started with Post-WWI breakup of Ottoman Empire and carving of Middle East where Britain and French sliced up Middle East. They went reneged on their promises made to these people who supported them in the WWI against Ottoman Kingdom. Going against its promises to create a unified state, the West divided up the region into small states to install kings of their choices- who merely turned into puppets later on. This is seen as grand betrayal of the West by most Muslims. [It is also reflected in the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam who legitimized it on the pretext of unresolved conflict of these carving of nations.]

Discovery of oil has perpetuated the hegemony of the West in Middle East. By installing klng after king, dictator after dictator, the West has pursued a policy in which the mandate of the people was ignored meticulously, forcefully and aggressively, to ensure a smooth flow of oil to their countries. This continuous and constant meddling and influencing factors have not gone well with Muslim people whose right to freedom, right to expression and all democratic institutions were curbed by their own leaders to suit the interests of the West. They reckon and realize that they would have found their vaunted freedom and expression, and hence true independence only if the West stopped supporting their leaders. This discontent threw open many religious and militant institutions and people to support various Islamic movements in the world, including the later Afghan war against Soviet Union and Kashmir rebellion against India.

Iran-Iraq

How come the ‘upholder of freedom’ and the ‘champion of democracy’ destroy every democratic and people’s movements in the Muslim World? US with the help of CIA put back Shah on the throne in spite of the Iranian’s people’s decision to dethrone him. Every election conducted in Iran is denounced by US and Israel and its leaders are not accepted- looks like the West is more comfortable dealing with despots and dictators and not legitimate representatives of the people. Why should not Muslims World conclude that the West is hypocrite- it wages wars in the name of democracy and then goes onto upstage the results of the same?

US positioned and supported Saddam Hussein to contain Iran after the debacle it faced during Hostage of US Embassy. After a decade long war between Iran and Iraq with full approval and help from the US, Saddam invaded Kuwait cutting off supply of oil to US which prompted an immediate reaction from US and its allies. The Gulf War resulted in further humiliation and devastation of Muslim World.

Though none of the 9/11 terrorist masterminds were from Iraq, or had any link with Saddam, US used extended its ‘War on Terror’ to already battered and sanction-struck people of Iraq to kill thousands of innocent civilians. Isn’t it sheer hypocrisy to charge Saddam of using chemical weapons especially when those weapons were delivered to him by Donald Rumsfeld during Iran-Iraq war? How can Iraqis NOT become gun-toting terrorists when their homes were bombed, children killed, cities ravaged in the name of ‘crusade’ on the contention that they possessed nuclear bombs which never existed?

Afghanistan

Involvement of US and Russia in the affairs of Afghanistan has brought about a new breed of Islamic radicalism in which many nations, many different sects were unified under one flag of Islamic militancy. In an effort to oust Soviet Union from Afghanistan in order to win the ideological war, US has brought in many radical elements from different geographies, funding the activities and supplying all necessary military equipment, into Afghanistan with a sole purpose to defeat its enemy. The battles that ensued between these radical militants, whose only common bond was Islam, and mighty Red Army were bloody and grueling. In the long-drawn guerilla warfare, Soviet Union buckled and left Afghanistan hanging its face in shame. While this war might have been one of the prime reasons that led to eventual collapse of Soviet Union, which was a victory for US and its allies, the greater victory was for Islamic world. For the first after the fall of Ottoman Empire did an Islamic nation win against another major power! In the process, it brought under one roof nationals from different Muslim countries- from Egypt, Arabia, Palestine, to Iran, Iraq and Pakistan.

After the defeat of Soviet Union, US did not need these elements and hence abandoned all the connections including all the arms and ammunition which were then used by various factions to wage a bloody war. The resulting events, where Taliban, supported by Pakistan, came to power under the guise and name of Islam, where every institution of Afghanistan was razed to ground, where every woman lost her freedom, were capitalized by the same person whom the US funded and created- Osama Bin Laden.

After 9/11, US bombed Afghanistan killing thousands of civilians to take revenge for the acts of the person whom they created in the first place. Afghanistan was raped by all. Muslim World looks at it as another case where a country is used and later thrown as scrap paper by the West. After so many wars, when US came to bomb them they could not realize what crime the people of Afghanistan had committed. They were ravaged by so many for so long that they didn’t know who came next to bomb them again and why.

India-Pakistan

The independence movement of Indian sub-continent threw open two nations, one which decided to form itself on the name of religion (Islam), another on secular principles but dominated by one religion (Hinduism). The partition resulted in an unresolved conflict (in Kashmir). India reneged on its promises to hold plebiscite to this region and held onto Muslim dominated region despite the people’s longing to be independent or be with Pakistan. Even after fifty years of Independence, India holds onto this land against the will of its people, with half-million troops to rule over few millions living there. While India was a champion of freedom movements worldwide and supporter of democratic institutions elsewhere, it has meticulously destroyed every legitimate representation of people in this region. How can Muslims of the world not see this as another case of hypocrite Rest of the World controlling and ruling them against their will? They see it as another hypocrite nation which seems to uphold certain principles elsewhere but chooses not to practice them when it comes to Muslim regions. Kashmir gladly invites people from different Muslim nations to fight their war for freedom against India.

Russia

Complicity of Soviet Union or Russia in the affairs of Muslim World should not be underestimated. Russia was involved in the carving up of Middle East but eventually did not get benefited since the Empire fell to create a new Soviet Union during WWI. After the breakup of Soviet Union, Russia went on an overdrive to establish its nationalistic pride which comes in way in dealing with Chechnya.

Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Arabia, et al

Arabia is ruled by the royal family and is given patronage by US. Most of the royal family members have close ties with many US leaders. One of the mandates of Osama and his fanatic sect is to dethrone this royal family. The King of Jordan and his family who control Jordan and are seen by its population as Westernized lot who seem to hold the reins only through support from the West. Egypt and Syria have got involved in Israeli-Palestine conflict in a see-saw fashion- sometimes supporting and sometimes backing out. However, the local populations show strong emotions towards Palestine cause.

How to ease up the friction between Islamic World and Rest of the World

The Rest of the World has meddled with Muslim nations for nearly hundred years now and the involvement is on the increase and is turning violent – with major wars happening in the last twenty years, and more are on the plate against other Muslim nations. Unless the Rest of the World accepts its complicity and makes amends, Islamic World will only pour out more hatred, out of frustration and disillusionment. There will be an increase in terrorist activities world wide. The assumption that one can curb terrorism by bombing their villages and camps is now clearly proven to be counter-productive. It only results in further inflammation thus resulting in more funds and more recruitment for these terrorists. Increasing terrorism is taken up by some Muslim leaders to hijack and blackmail the West into receiving sops, which will only legitimize and further fuel such terrorist activities. There is a need for a new outlook towards solving the problem of terrorism which has its roots in certain unresolved and unsolved problems in different geographies affecting Muslim World. Instead of taking a far more aggressive stance, which it is taking right now, the major powers and Rest of the World have to step back from its belligerent stance towards Islamic World. Only by giving room and space to the Islamic World to undergo its own change and establish its identity, will there be less friction between the two worlds. As long as Islam World looks at the modern values, such as criticism, debate and notions of equality, tolerance and liberty, as ‘Western’ values, it will not embrace them and instead reject them outright. And imposing these values by force will only result it extreme rejection and transpire out as radicalism, fanaticism and terrorism. There are strong indications to suggest that the present conflicts, confined to local geographies and sporadic terrorist activities, can spill over to far bigger wars unless checked. I feel that following immediate steps have to be taken to reconcile with Islamic World. This is only the first step towards harmonization between different civilizations towards paving way for a better world; and also to avert a disastrous world war in the coming years.

1. Give Palestine its nationhood.

2. Give Kashmir its independence.

3. Give Chechnya its independence.

4. Stop meddling in Middle East and other Muslim nations. Allow their forms of governments. Don't topple their governments.

5. Don't use Muslim nations as your battleground to wage your ideological wars.

6. Let them control their natural resources.