To(377)B or not to be

This post was originally written by me for a group blog I co-own named The Jalebi Chronicles.Check it out, it has some really good stuff.

Over the past few months, we have witnessed uproar due to the shocking judgement passed by the Honourable Supreme Court of India a little more than a month ago. I am referring to the black day of 11th December, 2013 when in a move that shocked the nation and the world at large, a division bench headed by the now retired Justice Singhvi decided to overrule a Delhi High Court judgement that had struck down section 377B of the Indian Penal Code which reads:

“Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.”

In essence, it was a section inserted to soothe the attitude of an archaic society that has long since ceased to exist in 19th century itself, in an age and time when the concepts of right and wrong were a farfetched dream for the citizens of any colonised nation. Let’s return to modern day India. Courtesy some liberal judicial interpretations of the constitutionally sanctioned Fundamental Rights, we have numerous rights (rights which are not stated explicitly in the Constitution but are more inferred,) including the right to privacy. What section 377 B means is an absolute invasion of that right. Going by the logic of the section, if two people have consensual sex against the ‘order of nature’ in a private room and someone peers through the keyhole and lodges a complaint, they’ll be arrested. The state, in its moral stride has essentially decreed that all sexual acts except consensual peno-vaginal sex between two adults is illegal.

If we are to analyze the judgment, some factors stand out. One of the reasons offered by the Supreme Court to uphold section 377 B’s constitutional validity is that it targets acts rather than people, and thus is uniformly applicable to all citizens. What they fail to recognize here is that these “acts” which they seek to criminalize are inexorably linked to the sexuality of the LGBT community, whose rights are clearly being violated by the same logic. But again, a disgusting choice of words is seen in paragraph 52 of the judgment, which reads, “In its anxiety to protect the so-called rights of LGBT persons…” The degrading of the community and its rights just because of its existence as a minority is shocking. Furthermore, the court also maintains that the insertion of the section forming the basis of harassment and blackmail only warrants for an amendment to the law by the legislature and does not make the section ultra vires. To cap it off, the judgment laid forth a political challenge of sorts when it suggested that an alternative could be an act by the legislature to delete the section in contention.

I refuse to dwell on the ramifications that this decision will hold for the future of politics in our country. All I will say is that I am shocked; shocked and disappointed. The upholder of the nation’s fundamental rights has failed the nation. In an ironic maneuver, a judgment has turned citizens into criminals. Protest all you will, but the truth of the matter is this: at the bottom of all our hearts, we will be left with just one painful thought, and this will be the collective ideology of us all: “On 11th December 2013, the Indian Judiciary failed its duties and principles. It failed its philosophy… It failed you and me. But above all, it failed itself.

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When The Signal Turns Red By Jayanand Ukey -A Book Review

Book Review

Drama is something that has become the oomph factor for the entertainment industry in India. Books, movies, TV shows, all of them have a surplus of drama which overflows like the butter on a Punjabi guy’s Aloo Parantha. But most books tend to over do it. At its heart, simplistic drama is simply cute to read and that’s what this book brings to you.

Book Review of When The Signal Turns RedThis 198 paged novel is Jayanand’s first novel. It’s a fluffy little book about a typical Indian love story. Boy likes girl, girl likes boy, they want to get married. By a miracle, their parents agree but alas!cruel fate strikes and suddenly the marriage is off, and the boy has to woo back his girlfriend’s parents.
In this book, we step into the world of Girish and Prajakta, both software engineers set to be working in top IT firms immediately after graduation. Something I really liked in this book were the characters. Most books try to simply overdo the need for detail and end up creating mystic, well framed descriptions which ultimately leave the reader dissatisfied. WTSTR on the other hand, creates simplistic characters with basic personalities. This in turn leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination and lets him or her connect with the book in their own unique way. For example, we all have that one relative from the Military( ex or serving) who loves being punctual, inspires terror and loves to mull things over Whiskey. In this case, it is Prajakta’s dad.
Moving on to the book’s Achilles’ heel,  I found the book to be little to fantastical for my liking and defied the logic which I observe in real life. The nearly instant approval of all parties involved, a clichéd crisis which is something now considered as over-the-top and a Bollywood drama like end( not that I am complaining, I love Bollywood!) Nevertheless, as a reviewer I clearly need to point it out as some things simply don’t go down well different audiences.
As a complete work, this book is an easy to read, cute little romantic scene from the life of Girish and Prajakta. The book is earthy, charming and has the brilliance of a simple story teller. It doesn’t have metaphors and references that require you to read it with your iPad open on Wikipedia. It is a book for everyone and anyone, and simply fun.
Like: Easy to read, Simple characters,Earthly,Fluffy
Dislike:  A wee bit fantastical, Bollywood like over-the-top end
Click here to buy from Amazon or Flipkart

Chanakya’s New Manifesto by Pavan K.Verma-A Book Review

The Republic of India was born on 26th January 1950 after Hindustan gained independence on 15th August 1947. These two marvelous events are the important highlights of India’s history, results of a exhaustive meticulously fought revolution. Jump to modern day India. We are in the middle of a transformation, a revolution if you will. Yet, what we are missing is a concise pathway to follow. The struggle for independence, although never backed by a document, always followed a principle. The principle of non violence, ahimsa etc also cumulatively known as Gandhi’s principles. Somehow this book is exactly what we need right now.

Author of Chanakya's New ManifestoThis 247 paged novel is an excellent book by Pavan K. Verma. Before I dive into how the book is and how it deals with India’s needs perfectly, a word about the author. Mr.Verma is an ex-civil servant who took voluntary early retirement from the Indian Foreign Services and now leads an actively involved public life. I believe these credentials are enough for him to provide an accurate commentary on the topics this book covers.

Inspired by the great Vishnu Gupta or more commonly known as Chanakya’s Arthshastra, this book lays down a blueprint of systematic changes India needs to become a superpower. It clearly lays down five key areas which are down in the dumps and are in a desperate need for improvement. Mr.Verma, in a concise and precise way, first details the current situation in that sector, tells us how this problem came about and what its roots are. Thus, after establishing a firm background and working knowledge of the topic to be dealt with, Pavan elaborates on the changes he thinks are needed while backing each one of them with a sound and logical reason(s).

The only flaw which I could even possibly relate to this book is extremely remote i.e. it didn’t debate the cons of the plans laid down in the book. But in the author’s defense  he ends the book by humbly saying that these points are not perfect and should be debated. So, no harm done. This along with a grammatical error or two, the book is perfect.

Chankaya's New Manifesto

As a whole, the book is something India desperately needs right now. We are plagued by inefficient governance, archaic policies, slow judicial mechanisms, a corrupt system and a lax bureaucracy. Although we have an enraged population, anger is not what will change the system. People hate corruption but have no way to fight it. This book presents an idea, an implementable idea. Something for us to follow and do. The X factor lies in the fact that the author himself has been in the very system he is trying to change. As he is already aware of its nooks and cranny, his ideas lay out the battle plan to combat them as well. I don’t say the ideas of this book are perfect as that perception differs from person to person in a free and independent society like ours. All I am saying is that like those fancy self-improvement guides we buy, this book is a nation-improvement book. We have the blueprint, we want the change. All that’s left to do is, ironically, is to do!

Like: Clear, concise, precise, effective, well planned, well thought out, reasonable logic
Dislike: Nothing

 Click here to buy from Amazon or Flipkart

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

RIP by Mukul Deva-A Book Review

Mukul Deva, author of RIPToday’s India is defined by scenario which is disturbing. A corrupt political class which was used to ruling over the masses and fooling them, but is slowly meeting its downfall with the emergence of what I call, “the part-time street activist”. These new citizens of India refuse to accept the idiosyncratic standards of Indian governance and using mass-appeal techniques like social networking, protests and anshaans, have taken the country by storm. It is not news that India is changing. But a portion of the crowd believes the change is slow. This book is like wine to them.

 

This 286 paged novel is Mukul’s 12th novel. As I have not read any of his other books, I cannot comment upon the continuity of style, but this book is what we Indians like to call, teekhior spicy. The plot is pretty simple and straight forward. No detailed mysteries to be cracked or codes to be interpreted. Just a bunch of ex-army men wishing to eliminate corruption from their beloved nation as they swore to. How do they do this? By killing of the corrupt and jolting them into reactionary phases. The characters of the book are relatable as well easy to connect with. Deva has been creative with the real life inspirations as all the politicians and political parties referred to in the book, although slightly differently named, can be guessed in one go.
RIP(Resurgent Indian Patriots)The factor that drives this book is the honesty of the author’s thought process, brutal expression of ground reality and it’s impeccable timing( the violent revolutionary anti-establishment mood of the book is extremely similar to India’s reaction to the Nirbhaya gang rape case). The author is clearly a person who wishes to change India, but unlike Anna’s Gandhian movements or Kejriwal’s political outfit, he wishes to do this, Rang de Basanti style. A idea advocated by a growing group every day.
Coming to the bumps in the road, RIP, according to me is a bit too fantastical. The way the protagonists execute the key figures of the Indian political arena is yet believable. But the fact that they get away with successful assassinations of many important figures in a period of just 2 weeks, is slightly unrealistic. It is something that none of the major terror organisations have been able to pull off. In fact such a case has never been observed in history. That was one thing that put me off. Couple this with the over-the-top Bollywood like end; I was left feeling a range of emotions. Imagine that you’ve just seen an Anurag Kashyap movie which ends like a Yashraj flick. That’s what I’m talking about.
Overall, this book is an excellent read and is easy on the eyes as well. Mukul tactfully narrates the story through different POVs without any glitch or loopholes, a feat which is an achievement in itself. So to every angry young Indian out there who is seething at the government, rush to the nearest store (or just buy it online). A revolution is in the making.
Like: Easy to read, Revolutionary, Radical ideas, Matches the mood of the nation
Dislike:  A wee bit fantastical, Bollywood like over-the-top end

This review is a part of the biggest Book Reviews Program. for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

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The Gawkadal Massacre

Look at the grief of a commonerWith nearly two-third of January gone and almost all of our new year resolutions broken, the day of 20th January 2013 dawned to the 23rd anniversary of a brutal, ghastly incident which ironically most people don’t know about. I confess that even I was among those who didn’t know about this incident until some of my Twitter friends alerted me. So to that entire generation which doesn’t even know where Gawkadal is, here’s a summarised account.

On  the night of 19thJanuary 1990, Mr. Jagmohan was appointed as the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, despite wide disapproval from the populace as well as the state government. In fact, the state government led by then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, resigned in protest. The very same night, the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) carried out unwarranted raids and inspections in Srinagar and arrested thousands of innocent people. Next morning when the word of the arrests got out, thousands of protesters poured out on the streets in anti-government marches, much similar to the outrage over the recent Delhi Gang Rape incident. In the evening, the protesters reached Srinagar’s wooden bridge over the Jhelum River named Gawkadal Bridge. To control this supposed unruly crowd, the CRPF opened fire on them, resulting in the death of 51(government toll) or 281(estimated toll). Also, thousands of people died as they had jumped into the river out of fear and drowned.
CRPF arrests protesters in Srinagar
23 years later, Kashmir still awaits justice. The police buried the investigation as “untraceable” and Delhi did everything to bury it. After all which government would want to have this on their resume? But the truth of the matter remains that this incident was no less brutal than the horrific Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Anyone devoid of sympathy, here’s a food for thought. Hundreds of people died before seeing the Internet. Many kids were orphaned just because some idiots in Delhi wanted power. Women were widowed because the government lacked the balls to take on a peaceful protest headfirst. As the 21stCentury citizens of India, we have learned to show our displeasure and annoyance at the government. But our forerunners were brutally massacred and ironically, almost no one knew. All I ask for is awareness, sympathy and respect. Awareness about this disgusting use of fascist fanatic force to crush the voice of the commoners. Sympathy for the original protesters who bravely gave up their lives for something they believed was right. Respect for the entire population of Kashmir, where (and I quote), “Every prayer is to beg god for a moment of peace in his heaven on earth.
Child Kisses Memorial Stone of Gaw Kadal Massacre

The need of the hour is crystal clear. India is awakening and the iron is red hot, ready to be struck. It’s time we change. I hope we change. Soon, Fast and Now.

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Who am I?An Indian Teen’s Identity Crisis

NOTE:This was the article I wrote for the What’s My ID Contest for Youth Ki Awaaz. I won a Nokia Lumia 710 and an internship with them. Here’s the picture :

Nokia Lumia 710 Won By Siddharth Gupta for What's My ID Contest for Youth ki Awaaz

As a seventeen year old teen, I can confidently say I’m an Indian who is astonished by India daily. With the second highest population in the world, the only way of describing us is “we’re everywhere”. Some rejoice by this unique factorial, claiming it to be a bright prospect for the country’s future. But what I, and most of today’s youth sees, is a situation of identity crisis. A situation that doesn’t look good at all.

Today, every child, by the sole act of his birth, acquires multiple tags, which already define him before he or she can logically think. When a foreign dignitary visits India, the first lesson they learn is of our cultural integrity, but they never learn of our inhumane and excruciatingly complex divide. May it be on the geographical distribution of states, or of the language rolled off their tongues, we have a nasty little intuition to immediately separate each other out. It’s interesting to note that most of the geographical and language issues are simply banal. Consider this: at the time of our independence, we had 15 odd states which today stand at 28. Looking at certain separatist movements, we may see an increase in the number. But the point that stands out is that over time, fragmentation, re-merging of areas, division etc stops mattering because over the years, the only common link geographically between people has remained that of belonging to a common nation- India.

Moving on to the touchy issue, caste based discrimination. It’s not that we are not trying to move past it. With each passing generation, the emerging youth of India has slowly worked towards making it a figment of history. Unfortunately, our social stigmas and laws haven’t caught up. As a child when my mother taught me equality, I often thought “How can I say XYZ is equal to me when he gets a reservation in educational institutes, government jobs and many other such similar offerings while I don’t?”

Bringing in the gender divide, I slightly start feeling disgusted. For a nation which claims to believe and worship in a goddess, we are simple brutes. As a staunch advocate of equality among women, I simply find myself in dearth of a true identity, because associating myself with any of them highlighted here, causes a revulsion in me.

Identity. The word itself resonates a feeling of unity, of oneness and in true essence, describes the individual persona of each person. Sadly, as an Indian who is still in his growing years, I’ve discovered that I have multiple facades, multiple descriptions associated with me. Why, is a question I’m yet to answer, because the search goes on. In India, you never have a single identity. It’s always a concoction of many different ones. But whatever the potion may be and whoever may be the brewer, one thing is apparent and crystal-clear. Something is wrong, and we must change. I hope we change. Soon, Fast and Now

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The Reality Of The Queer Prejudice-A QnA with Harish Iyer

India is emerging as a nation.But unfortunately,our mentality,our society and the guarantee of freedom and human rights has fallen behind the pace.Although,judicially, the 2010 judgement was a landmark, but our minds have not broken past all of it.In a frank one to one,Harish Iyer, an openly gay person and queer community activist tells us his views.

1.There a lot of misconceptions about the current legal rights of the Queer community. What’s the ground reality?

Section 377 of the indian penal code criminalised carnal intercourse between two individuals that was against the order of nature. This was quite ambiguous as “order of nature” could be interpreted in different ways.

This law was used against homosexuals as they practice oral and anal sex. The view was that sex against the law of nature was prohibited any sex that’s non-procreative could be unnatural. Which is totally untrue.The Delhi high court read down section 377 saying that any sex between two consenting adult individuals in private is not unlawful. The key words are ‘consensual’, ‘private’ and ‘adult’. It basically goes on to say that the state or the law has nothing to do with what two adults willingly do in their bedrooms.
Now the big doubt was – is section 377 only read down in Delhi. Well, since it makes an amend in the IPC, it would be valid throughout india. So if there is a section 377 case in say Bombay, the delhi judgement can be quoted here. 
It was never illegal to love in India. The problem was with making love. 

2.I would be blind if I say the prejudice is over. You constantly receive bigoted emails and tweets. Your take on this?
Some people are curious about my sex life. I think I must be doing something really well at that, that it makes them so curious and jealous 🙂
Well, on a serious note, yes prejudice does exist, and its time to look at people eye-to-eye. Every single person who walks out of the closet, is an inspiration for another.
I feel we like to “excavate” things that are hidden. I have nothing to hide, they have nothing more to dig. 🙂

3.Acceptance in conservative societies,including ours, is next to impossible. Especially in the older generations.How do you spread awareness about homosexuality?

Who said acceptance is impossible. I am in India. I am out to everyone right from my Gangu bai and rickshaw driver to everyone at work. They might not come out in acceptance like a typical Karan Johar flick, but they do have latent acceptance. Or rather have complete disregard for my sexuality, which is good.

4.Beside being an icon to the Queer community,you’re an active social reformer. What’s your current and next project?

LGBTIQ rights is just one of the battles for equal human rights. I don’t know if I am an icon, I am but definitely someone who would not suffer in silence. Or for that matter watch something go wrong and be a silent bystander.
I act from my heart. And I don’t meticulously plan my causes. I erupt whenever there in crises. Presently I am doing my usual sessions with survivors of child sexual abuse.

5.If you were to write a paragraph about yourself, it would read….

The man who Dreams a new dream, for the old one is now a reality”

6.Something you simply can’t say no to

Facebook. (I’m a social media whore)
7.Someone you can’t say no to
Hardly anyone. If I have to say no, I will say no.

8.As an blogger, what role do you think blogs play in current social dynamics?

They help you think. They seed a thought in your mind that no book could. They are personal. And they have a personality. Blogs are thought-influencing. Blogs are humans too.

9.Lastly, an advice to our readers.

Tolerance is the word. You need not like me. But you need to learn to co exist with someone who is different.
Thoughts become things. So keep documenting your thoughts.
Born free – blog free.

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