Thursday, July 23

A letter to Mr Thackeray

Mr. Bal Thackeray,

Really, are you out of your mind completely? You want him to be hanged publicly at the Gateway of India? Though Kasab deserves to die for what he did, the Gateway of India does not deserve to go down in history as the spot where he was hanged. You want it to be a big spectacle with people cheering and the 24 hr news channels telecasting it live for the world to see? You really think that would deter other terrorists from attacking India? Or do you wish to immortalize Kasab's death so that it can be used as fodder for other terrorists-in-training? You known it favors politicians' electoral interests when the country is under attack from external forces? Are you sure you speak only out of a desire for justice?

Just so you know, we are not barbarians. We are a country of decent people who would be outraged by such displays. We are not terrorists. We do not go about killing people because we are told that they have wronged us. We allow the judiciary to determine guilt and provide justice. A fair trial, as is currently underway, is what you need to send a message to the millions of Indians that the state machinery can protect them. The judicial system is capable of bringing terrorists to trial and punishing them without outraging publicly decency. We do not attack lawyers for serving their country. We stand by them. Maybe you could too.

Kasab is a terrorist. He does not need to die a martyr.

Tuesday, July 21

My posts at FPA blogs

I now write for the Foreign Policy Blogs, a production of the Foreign Policy Association. The FPB network has around 50 blogs that discuss global developments across all continents. The Foreign Policy Association is a New York based think-tank established in 1918 to spread awareness and understanding of foreign policy issues.

Check out my posts on Indian foreign policy at their India blog.

Sunday, July 19

Something to cheer about

While Gulam Nabi Azad made us laugh, the latest news on population policy will make you smile. A detailed National Population Policy formulated in the year 2000 set out to achieve a total fertility rate (TFR) of two by the end of 2010. Now the union health ministry reports that 11 states and three union territories have achieved that target of two children per couple two years before the deadline. Most Indians are used to a large number of government projects missing their deadlines. To see these states work efficiently fills my heart with optimism. All we need now is for the good work to continue uninterrupted and become a norm.

The National Population Policy had rightly identified education, women's empowerment, and communication and awareness about the benefits of family planning to be some of the ways of achieving the targets. (Azad should have taken a cue from the policy and made the argument for more televisions as the means of spreading family planning awareness.) Interestingly, the National Family Health Survey (2007) reports the literacy rates for most of the 11 states as being above the Indian average of 67.6 percent. The statewise literacy rates are as follows: Goa (83.3), Himachal Pradesh (81.3), Karnataka(69.3), Kerala (89.9), Maharashtra(77.6), Punjab (74), Sikkim (76.6), Tamil Nadu (74.2), West Bengal (71.6) and Andhra Pradesh (63.7). Either it is sheer coincidence, or higher literacy rates and decreasing FTR seem to be co-related.

Thursday, July 16

'Horn'less drive

The city police have taken up the noble cause of reducing honking. And they have even fined more than a 1000 people by now. However, the drive will continue only for the next few weeks. What happens after that? How has the drive helped if drivers know that they will not be fined in a few weeks time and can continue about business as usual? Maybe there is a serious plan in place here. Probably ToI doesn't think we need to be told about it though.

Saturday, July 11

Televising our way to population control

And I thought 'late night' television could put you in the 'mood'.

Apparently Ghulam Nabi Azad knows otherwise, "When light will reach (villages), 80 percent of population growth can be reduced through TV." That is why the UPA government will take up rapid electrification of villages (not because it is a basic amenity that governments are supposed to provide.) Then the electrified villagers can watch television and not engage in the "process of population growth." Just think of all the years lost believing that awareness and education helped control population. All we needed was to turn people into TV watching zombies.

Wednesday, July 8

Zardari admits to supporting terrorists!

If this story is to be believed, then Zardari might just become India's most loved Pakistani President. However, it seems rather odd that he would admit that "Pakistan nurtured terrorism." So far Pakistan has vehemently rejected supporting terrorists. India shouted itself hoarse, but no one seemed to believe that the Pakistani State had anything to do with terrorism in India. That Pakistan pursued it as a standard foreign policy decision.

While I am skeptical about the story, it does raise various questions. The first being, what is Zardari playing at? Following in Musharraf's footsteps? Or does he have a bigger game up his sleeve, one where admission of sponsoring terrorism is a small price to pay? Does this admission mean that Pakistan will be termed a State sponsor of terrorism? Or is it not an "official" enough admission? Will it mean fewer dollars to help Pakistan "fight the war on terror?" Will Western countries finally see Pakistan for what it is - a sponsor of terrorism? I seriously doubt anything of the sort will happen. At best Zardari will claim ignorance or out of context reporting. And things will go back to being as they were.

While the story was reported by the Indian media, I have been unable to find any traces of it anywhere else other than the Telegraph. Maybe they will pick it up tomorrow. Or maybe they will choose to ignore.

Tuesday, July 7

Baba Ramdev supports Art 377

My attitude towards Baba Ramdev can best be described as apathetic. Not that news surrounding him lacked spice, it just didn't matter enough. However, his decision to challenge the Delhi High Court verdict on gay sex makes me angry. One, because I believe that human sexuality is no religion's business. Two, I hate self-appointed self-righteous guardians of religion and morality. Three, Hinduism seems rather neutral towards the idea and we do not need to drag the religion into a debate it rather not be a part of. And four, Ramdev has a significant following and could undermine the cause of the gay movement in India.

The basis of his petition is that homosexuality is dangerous to "public morality," "public health" and would expose larger sections of the population to HIV/AIDS. Unprotected sex with multiple partners of any gender ups the chances of contracting a STD. Gayness has no direct proven relation with an increase in infection rates. Baba Ramdev also jumps on the protectors of Indian values bandwagon and thinks that the decision will jeopardise the institution of marriage and "offend the Indian value system." BS!

But the real gem is this... "Homosexual relationships, if encouraged, would bring population growth of a country to a halt and may deprive this country of its greatest asset of human resources," he said. As if homosexuality will turn off all the straight ones. As if we do not have too many people already. Why do these people want to perpetuate a lie that Indians are asexual beings? We are a sufficiently horny society like any other normal society. Not talking about it does not change it. Look at any guy on the street, or our films. Or even the Lifestyle section of ToI.

It is sad that religions across the world trample upon human dignity and freedom in the name of some archaic "value system." That how you choose to express your love requires religious sanction. The Delhi High Court's verdict based on protection of human rights was a mature way of discussing the issue. I think the Supreme Court of India should appreciate and uphold the ruling, as should the UPA government and scrap Article 377.

McNamara-India-China link

This is something I never knew about McNamara. Though not entirely improbable, it seems rather an extreme stand at a time when India was viewed as being pro-Soviet. But then it was the Cold War!