Tag Archives: censorship

Morality, reason and Porn-gate (impressive title, eh?)

Three ministers in Karnataka’s legislative assembly resigned today following a TV expose  showing them watching a porn clip in the assembly. While the MLAs were defensive at first and claimed that they were doing research, their resignations and the multiple inquiries that have been ordered seals their fates.

Opposition MLAs and the media has painted this as a moral low for Karnataka. Twitter has responded (of course) and BJP supporters and detractors alike have bashed the ministers for having watched porn in the legislative assembly.

Two things have seemingly united the right and the left against the accused

  1. BJP and its allies are known to take a conservative stand on morality and culture, and watching of porn is blatantly immoral.
  2. One of the MLAs is the minister for Women and Child development and had previously made a remark to the effect of  ”women should not dress provocatively or they are inviting trouble”.

Of the many hours of Lok sabha TV I have watched and what I gather from others, MPs and MLAs routinely sit around totally distracted, reading something unrelated, talking to each other and in general paying absolutely no attention. The grave error of these MLA’s was that they watched porn not that they  watched  porn. That these elected representatives were doing “research” or “entertaining themselves” is less relevant than that it was an obscene clip.

Call it prudishness or political opportunism, this episode  is a good reminder that when we take sides without paying attention to what we are taking sides about, we end up making silly arguments.

Do ministers dealing with women and children have to affirm to a “higher” moral code which includes abstaining from pornography? Is linking his statement about women to his watching porn not a case of confirmation bias? (I knew it, this is typical male chauvinistic behavior!) . Does the right have any objective or consistent standard of obscenity or morality? Does the BJP believe watching pornography is not suitable for people of high moral fiber and culture like its cadre?

How many of India’s ministers have any educational background related to the ministries they are handed? Is there any meritocracy in the handing out of cabinet portfolios?  Do we have any mechanism for public appraisal of personal beliefs and practices of our representatives  with relation to their  effect on their political decisions?

These questions are for examining of our biases and for finding the right reasons to condemn someone. For condemn we must, and from what I gather, these MLAs are condemned not because they watched porn but because they were caught.

Update: Edited for grammatical errors

How to get your book banned in India: a step by step guide

If you are an astute observer of the world like I, whatever your religious or ideological affiliation, one thing is obvious: getting your book banned is great for sales.

Lets face it, book-writers are an impoverished lot. Few of them (us?) manage to get any royalties and fewer still can live off them. In the pursuit of making a living doing what you love and in the process entertaining and illuminating people, all means must be considered fair.

Satanic verses by Salman Rushdie List of books banned in India

I’ve been a prolific reader from my childhood and like any other kid who loved costumed super heroes I’ve created a few of my own. I have also  dreamed of becoming rich and famous by writing many a marvelous novel (am working on the ‘writing’ bit) . But my novel has no guarantee of being a hit. Genius is not often recognized in its time. And so like any self-respecting indian parent ( the novel being my child, of course) I firmly believe that one must go to any lengths possible to promote ones child. yes, I am talking about getting my book banned.

After having examined lists of books banned in india like the one at centeright.in and reading pages and pages of articles written about banned books, I have discovered the perfect way to get my book banned.

Being of big heart, here is the formula in its entirety and explained.

  1. Write a book.
  2. Be very unlucky

or

  1. Be famous
  2. Write an unlucky book

Sounds simple doesn’t it? It isn’t.

Thousands of books are published in India every year. Other than the english press, we have a much larger press in Indian languages. The interesting thing is, many of these books that are published can be considered obscene, inflammatory, anti-religion, anti-indian etc but very few ever get banned. This is why I say you must be unlucky.
Here is how you go about being unlucky. Important!  You must do all the steps, don’t be lazy, book publishing is not for the lazy.

Step 1

Option 1

Write something that parodies one of the following or
introduces a less than honorable side of them or
portrays in a less than saintly manner

  1. Mahatma Gandhi or a Gujarati historical figure
  2. The prophet Mohammad or the koran
  3. Shivaji or other local historical heroes
  4. Sita and Ramayana
  5. Indira Gandhi or other scions of the Nehru family
  6. Official versions of the wars India fought.
  7. The indian independence struggle.
  8. Narendra modi (Speculative, but I predict a rapid growth in this market)
  9. Sachin Tendulkar (Speculative)
  10. Barkha Dutt /Sagarika Ghose (Speculative, I think the signs are there)

Option 2

Write something nice about

  1. Jinnah
  2. Pakistan
  3. Arundhati Roy or Maoists (Speculative)
  4. Sachin Tendulkar (speculative: if he doesn’t hit 100)
  5. Barkha Dutt /Sagarika Ghose (Speculative)

Step 2

Ensure unluckiness by mailing copies of the book to one or more of the relevant organizations.

  1. RAW/IB/CBI
  2. Shiv Sena or similar nationalist outfits
  3. Darul Uloom or relevant fundamentalist islamic organization.
  4. Govt. Of Gujarat
  5. Ruling political party or opposition ( no.1 will do, but just to be sure)
  6. BD/SG fan club pvt limited (speculative, soon to be formed organization)

TIP:  Prepare before hand. Start right now and write/speak/tweet about any/all the above, portraying them in a bad light. This will create the right atmosphere for when the book comes along.

Step 3

Be white.

Get your book banned in India

This is an important step, you must be white. Yes, white as in Firangi. If that is not possible, be an Indian who lives abroad. Or get major funding from abroad. At least try travel abroad and speak like “foreign-returned” people. Sure, indian authors have had their work banned, but the overwhelming majority of works that have been banned have had a foreign hand. We in India do not like the foreign hand except when it is giving us grants or jobs.

Interesting historical side-note: If you were writing in the near and pre independence india, your book would have a high likely hood of being banned if it was obscene. Because Indian people must not read dirty stories written by white people. Our own desi erotica industry does quiet a good job, thank you.

Someone has said about Bollywood that it is most important who discovers you, not what they discover in you. The same can be said about getting your books banned.

Laugh at me, but when my alt. history dystopian space opera that is actually a liberal critique of the essential paradigm of partially situated Indian identities which are canonical forms of Indo-Aryan contact, using dialectics of metaphorical thoughts becomes a runaway best seller and gets banned in India, I will have the last laugh. [hint: it will feature Mohammed, Sita, Ayesha, Modi and Gandhi in abstract roles during the Kargil war]

PS: Nilanjana Roy has done a time line of books banned and brought out common threads in the book banning reasons. Banned in India Part 1 and Part 2

What if Tebow were Muslim: Indian Edition

[quote style="1"] what if Tim Tebow were Muslim? He’s not. So maybe it doesn’t matter. There is no way to separate the man and the religion. Some people praise him for it, others recoil. When this happens, avid defenders of Tebow invoke freedom of religion. But as Tebowmania makes its way into politics, sports, religion and the everyday life of the mainstream United States, it is important to think about how we approach religion in this country. How we approach religious freedom in this country. Do we accept freedom of religion, any religion? Or do we accept freedom of Christianity? Salon [/quote]

Tim Tebow is an American football player who made news because he knelt and prayed before a game. He was made fun of by night show hosts and other liberal media outlets tried to point out the Christianizing of sports. Christian preachers across the US spoke in glowing terms about Tebow’s faith, and fundamentalists like Pat Robertson used the incident to blast the anti-christian bias in the liberal media.

Everyone agrees, though, that if it were a muslim player who knelt to pray in the US, it would be the conservatives who would speak derisively and liberals would just wait for a conservative to say something racist and then harp on about the anti-minority Bias.

The most important take away for me, however, was that for Americans, the right to make fun of people’s convictions was as important as having those convictions. And that the media believed that derisive/satirical humor was a great way to deal with public displays of religion..

Free speech, religion and secularism have been in the public debate in India of late. What began as a reaction to the stringent and draconian IT Bill later spilled into the realm of politics and religion with Kapil Sibal’s recent posturing over content that “hurts sentiments”.

We have a very different set of values than the US. We believe in live and let live. If an Indian player makes a public display of his faith, very likely it would be talked about in a respectful way. The commentators would say something like “and here is Tim praying before he begins, and lets hope his prayers are heard because his team needs all the help it can”.  Sure,there would be religious extremists of every kind to condemn it, but for the common Indian, used to seeing religious icons in government offices, public transport and even schools, it would just be something to respect about the person.

But the audibility of extremists is increasing.

One measure by which I make this assertion is observing the successful vilification of the word “secularism”.  This, was achieved/is being achieved by a propaganda techniques called  Name Calling. Repeatedly using a word in a negative context or with a negative connotation leads to devaluation of the word or the idea, makes people wary of it, and can lead to complete destruction of its meaning. Since no propaganda technique is used in isolation, combined with cherry picking data (related to card stacking) about how the congress has mis-used secularism in India ( it has) to garner muslim votes, the very desire for secularism is being challenged and subverted. Which (coincidence? ) is what the Hindu supremacists desire, a return to the “Indian” way of dealing with minorities (of which Subramanian Swamy gave a great explanation of).

If an Indian muslim player were to kneel in prayer, to most of this country it would mean nothing special, it definitely wont get him called names by mainstream media, nor would there be any one of significance speaking of it. There would, however, be muslim preachers who will use this as a message of  fervor,  and many more who would make comments about ” that secular player” doing “secular things”.

Here is the interesting thing,  Not everyone understands or even sees the damage that is intended or the religious prejudice behind the usage. What is most saddening is that many of them have deeply secular values and latch on to this bandwagon because :

  • The power of Assertion (another propaganda technique) keep saying something over and over, it will seem like the truth.
  • They know nothing about Muslims, other than the cherry picked data about violence, oppression etc. Most Indians grow up in areas where people of other faiths are not common. In spite of my having grown up and lived in 4 states in India, i have all of One Muslim friend. the rest are Christians and Hindus. My knowledge of the Muslim world comes from stories handed down in the family (mostly how we are better than “them”), the news papers and now, the internet. A casual glimpse through various sites that talk about Indian muslims will tell you that the majority of information out there is written either by conservative/fundamentalist muslims, or Hindus. The voice of the progressive, secularism loving Muslim is buried under a lot of noise.
  • Desire to be part of the “cool kids” ie. the  bandwagon effect . I‘ve been hearing about a Hindu resurgence for the last 10 years. I have no facts to show if it really is happening, or what it means, but in spite of that, i believe it. In fact, most people do, and once a critical mass of people believe in something, it becomes easier to accept more without evidence and easier to recruit minds.
  • Disgust for Congress’ behavior.  This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It does not take too much digging to realize that right from the beginning, secularism was used first as a protectionist strategy and later as a vote banking technique by the Congress at the center (individual states show a different picture). With the exposing of how deep and wide corruption runs in India, and with the growing discontent with it, everyone who hates the “rule” of Congress is left with little choice.
  • The linking of nationalism with anti-secularism. Religion touting political parties have always also linked nationalism with Hinduism, and so with the expected rise in patriotism (money coming in, lack of progress, increasing corruption etc.), there is an inadvertant clubbing of the secularism-bashing with nationalism.

One thing that contributes to the bowdlerization of Secularism is the way the liberal voices in India handle the conservative ones- with a patronizing, disdainful tone. We think that these “fringe” elements will never have any effect on “intelligent” Indians and that “most Indians” would not believe such crap. perhaps its time we wake up and smell the rotting roses.

The end effect is that instead of developing a moral sense to look for real secularism and promoting it, we are moving into times when a religious alternative to secularism (which, clearly is an evil thing, right?) is being introduced.

So today, if Tim Tebow were a Muslim in India, the majority would cheer him, a small group would beatify him, but here would be more people and louder voices that call him a  sikular Indian   than ever before. These voices continue to rise aided by the concurrent  increase in volume of the muslim fundamentalist, and hastened by government policies that care only about gaming the system for maximum profit.

Is that in itself a bad thing? How did we become a secular nation? Do we have alternatives to western ideas of secularism? What is this secularism anyway and is it any good?

These questions will be part 2. thank you for reading.