Understanding Revolutions

NOTE: This was an article I wrote for a special edition of The Education Times. However due to some reasons the edition was cancelled and they released the article online.Here’s the original link(http://www.educationtimes.com/article/69/2013020720130207161154173b0a5db49/Understanding-revolutions.html)

The heavily hyped ‘apocalypse’ has turned out to be a dud and, ironically, the joke might be on us. Judging by the extremely disturbing rebellion worldwide, we might nearly be on the brink of a real armageddon. “There is no substitute for a militant freedom”—a chilling quote from Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States of America serves as a gentle yet firm reminder, of the fallacies of violent and detrimental revolutions.

Understanding Revolutions by Siddharth Gupta

History stands witness, to the vicious savages of radical changes. May it be execution of kings in Europe sparked by unwitting comments over the availability of bread or exiles of leaders in Asia for trying to westernise a seemingly orthodox nation, revolutions have always threatened the delicate nature of civilisation. There are numerous examples from the world over describing this very phenomenon. The breakup of former Yugoslavia cost the world more than 1.5 lakh innocent lives. The still ongoing Arab spring revolution has a death toll of 80,000 and counting. These numbers are dwarfed by the casualties of the communist revolution of China in 1949 where the toll, even by conservative estimates, has crossed four crore.

Saurav Dutta, an eminent law professor, independent researcher and academician, explains, “We ‘liberals’ always tend to assume that all revolutions (political and cultural) would follow a certain pattern. And we get incensed and make doomsday predictions. This is often exploited as a reason for foreign, imperialist intervention, which pushes the population back into servitude, just with a different name. We should let a nascent democracy and population grow organically, without practising a belligerent form of cultural relativism.”

In a world marred by politics, greed, power, scrupulous ambition and anarchy, the path to change is slowly turning into a stairway to hell. Ashok Prasad, a well known legal expert and pshycatrist, namesake of the Prasad’s syndrome, is troubled and disturbed by the biased nature of some revolutions. “Every individual has multiple identities, and a movement that stresses absolute primacy of one identity over another, include communalism, is definitely a retrograde step. Admittedly not every society has accepted this position but we must not forget that the stress is primarily on shared values and that is the only way we can make progress. Emphasis on difference in values and an excessive stress on those values being central and fundamental only leads to corresponding neglect of social positions.”

The threat although isn’t immediate but a wrongly motive rebellion simply sparks off a catastrophic chain of events leading to the downfall of a state, religion, community or nation. But when these rebellions take a selfish turn, as they inevitably always do, the results can be calamitous.

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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

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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

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My River Shall Always Flow

A Poem About A Revolutionary Proclaiming His Change. People Die, But Their Ideas And Premise Don’t
Belittle me if you can
Slap on me an unwarranted ban.
You can rain your blows
But, my river shall always flow
Suppress me if you will,
My thoughts, no one can kill.
With my arrow loaded in a bow,
My river shall always flow
Call me Satan if you may,
Roark was one too, in his day.
You shall reap as you shall sow,
As for me, my river shall always flow
Even the universe stands still
For a man whom truth instills
The righteous shall win
And the wrong will cry in woe
Because, come what may,
My river shall always flow

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From Pakistan, With Love

NOTE: This article was written by me for the newspaper Education Times (http://www.myeducationtimes.com/article/79/201209102012091011592217627a4cd78/From-Pakistan-with-love.html)while I Interned there. Here is the link to the PDF of the actual newspaper article(http://www.4shared.com/office/eyiy0Tub/TOIM_2012_9_10_32.html) 

Sometimes, life leads us down a path which figuratively changes us. I recently embarked on such a journey to Hyderabad which left me amazed as it changed some of my dominant preconceived notions that I had been harbouring since childhood. The impact this experience had on me was even more profound simply due to the current relevance of the matter. 
The purpose of my trip to the City of Nawabs was an international conference with students from over 21 countries participating including those from Pakistan. Unfortunately, this conference occurred around the time of the August 11 protests at Azad Maidan which accentuated the communal and anti-Pakistan sentiments already existent amongst many Indians. However, my interactions with students from our neighbouring country gave me an opportunity to view Pakistanis in a different light contrary to public opinion. During the course of a week, I had multiple conversations with my fellow students from Pakistan about a range of topics varying from terrorism to politics and even cricket! 
I distinctly remember an incident at a mall that made me realise that Pakistanis are similar to us in a number of ways. After a great team lunch, all of us were looking to hire an auto rickshaw back to our hotel. Being the typical Indian city it is, we couldn’t get anyone to agree on a fair price for the ride. After a lot of innate Indian haggling, we finally got into one, still not satisfied with the decided fare. However, I saw my friend from Lahore smiling. She turned to me and said, “We have the exact same tendency to haggle in Pakistan!” That was it! The big moment of realisation! 
I realised that despite being at each other’s throats for years, India and Pakistan are truly like fraternal twins with just different perspectives and ideologies. However hate-filled and prejudiced the thoughts of our leaders, or for that matter, our elders may be, we (the youth) have a radically peaceful outlook. Over the years, we have witnessed religious discrimination or fanaticism. Yet, we, the youth, have brought about a silent revolution that runs deep within our mindsets. This effect is that of religious indifference. We understand nationalism but with a cool head. To our minds, not every Pakistani is a terrorist nor do we believe that harmonious existence is a myth. Although our politicians constantly make efforts to mask nation-based hatred, the grim reality is it always resurfaces with biased and illogical anger. Just as we overcame religious borders, it’s time to bond over actual borders. 
I returned home a changed teenager. I’ve returned a person with some great friends across the border and with a vision in my mind, a vision of eternal peace and harmony. Because for the first time in seventeen years, when a Pakistani hugged me I knew that the vision was not Indian nor was it solely mine. It was a shared vision of some youngsters not as citizens of two different nations, but as humans living in a global civilisation.

From Pakistan, With Love in Education Times,Mumbai Edition


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India’s Oprah?

NOTE: This article was written by me for the magazine Youth Incorporated (http://www.youthincmag.com/2012/08/01/indias-oprah-winfrey/) while I Interned there. Here are the links to PDFs of the actual magazine article(http://www.4shared.com/office/Ky47CzN-/64_online.html) (http://www.4shared.com/office/7iLnP07X/65_online.html)

6th May 2012 was a day unlike any other. It was a feverishly awaited Sunday as it was the launch date of Aamir Khan’s Television debut, “Satyamave Jayte”.  Touted to have been the next big revolution after Anna Hazare in India, Satyamave Jayte or SMJ as it’s called popularly has done both, soared to the high skies and crashed miserably as well. SMJ demonstrated an absolute genius marketing coup by heavily promoting the show, highlighting its key unique factors i.e. the 11 AM timeslot and most importantly, Aamir Khan himself. The first episode about female foeticide was moving and so was the second one where Aamir broke out the vile nature of child sexual abuse in India.  Hailed by people worldwide for its exceptional research, presentation and style, Aamir earned the title of India’s Oprah Winfrey. But soon the dream broke.
The sheer monotony of the show slowly has crept up and is now clawing into the viewership. A snippet from the Virar-Churchgate local floated through my ears,  giving a fairly accurate summary of the monotonous nature of the show; “Aamir comes, Aamir speaks, Aamir cries, Aamir talks to a NGO,  Aamir announces Reliance is the philanthropy partner, a song is sung and BAM! That’s it”. A thought to which, a huge majority agrees to. Coupled with the over-the-top reactions displayed by Aamir on the show (the dramatic oh! The watery eyes even before the tragic story begins), SMJ has slowly turned into a redundant  Sunday morning show which Indian families just watch for the sake of entertainment during breakfast.
Such factors might have been ignored if the show had yielded some actual results.  But apart from the two day long twitter hash tag trends, SMJ is yet to show a substantial impact. The key word is substantial because the truth of the matter is that certain influences have taken place, but not of the level which was expected by the sheer magnitude of Aamir’s brainchild.
Despite such fallacies, Satyamave Jayte has actually been a very vital aspect in rejuvenating awareness in the traditional, ultra-sexist parts of India. The unique strategy of being broadcasted simultaneously on over 10 channels simultaneously and the national channel Doordarshan has resulted in an exponential increase in the sensibilities of a vastly ignorant populace in places where a girl is nothing but a burden for her family and a child bearer for her husband. SMJ has dispelled the myth that boys are never sexually abused. The especially able were highlighted as their difficulties were projected for the first time in India. Dowry was satirically mocked with the “Mujhe Kya Bechega Rupiya?” song while Aamir subtly mocked the government for its dismal policy with regard to errant doctors and the use of poisonous pesticides under the guise of the Green revolution. The mere fact that it was Aamir Khan preaching the lessons has resulted in the content rising to national prominenc, similar to the flocking of Indian population to Polio immunisation booths because “Bachan sahib ne kaha tha”.
But, one of the unfortunate things that have come out of the apparent success achieved by SMJ, is that people have further lost their faith and touch in a government whose national policy making capabilities were always doubted in the first place itself. Aamir’s tears and the flowery theoretically simple solutions, despite being of a benevolent nature, have inspired multiple rounds of government bashing banter over tea breaks. To be completely fair, it is almost foolish of us to expect the government to function like Aamir does on SMJ. The government of India cannot simply take up a issue one fine Sunday and forget about it before the week ends. National policies are delicately crafted guidelines which are perfected over years and sometimes decades to ensure that the egos of the billions of Indian hailing from multiple backgrounds are soothed. It was gallant and extremely caring of Aamir to plead for the sale of generic drugs or for the usage of organic vegetables. These pleas were hailed by the populace but such simple and flawed statements cannot be a government’s official stance. Even if eventually becomes a government policy, it cannot take place overnight, as expected by a vast majority, due to the simple reason that the government has to debate, discuss and deliberate upon sub-issues which are never considered by us such as “If generic drugs are sold, is there any way to ensure top notch quality and non adulteration of these drugs?”. The issue is not with Mr.Khan’s ideas but the way society has perceived them. Aamir’s suggestions are well basically suggestions. But, the moment we start demanding them as a national policy, we border on the lines of absurdity, exposing how fools with democratic powers are nothing but glorified fools.
So, the verdict is of somewhat mixed results. On one hand, Satyamave Jayte has brought to India’s notice the seedy underbelly of the society i.e. the problems which all of us love to talk about, the topics we know about but have never actually done anything for. We got our own desi Oprah who could cry on stimulus and win our hearts with passionate true love for a nation which deserves nothing less from its citizens. On the other hand, SMJ has put forward weak solutions to hardcore issues and inspired satirical mocking from a sceptical crowd on both Aamir’s intentions and the state of Indian governance.  By suggesting idealistic thoughts such as allocation of billions of rupees for organic farming in the form of subsidies, Aamir has unknowingly raised unwarranted and over-expecting demands in India’s hearts, minds and souls with respect to our government as financial decisions involving such huge amounts are in no way a cake walk. Staying true with our nation’s aspirations, it is imperative for us to be sensible and realistic changers. Nothing else to the contrary can work in our nation. Hat’s off to Mr.Khan for tasking the steps which should have been taken years ago. Still it’s not too late as eventually, at the end of the day, सत्यमेवजयते

Youth Incorporated Magazine,Editor's Note,August 2012

India's Oprah? article in Youth Incorporated Magazine Page 1

India's Oprah? article in Youth Incorporated Magazine Page 2

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Y U NO Touch Me?

NOTE: This article was also published on Legally India(http://www.legallyindia.com/Blogs/Entry/latest-satyamave-jayte-y-u-no-touch-me)
People, Y U NO Touch Me?

Today’s episode of Satyamave Jayte is probably the best one till date. Hitting on India’s Achilles’ heel, Aamir Khan has brought to our notice the unethical, disruptive, idiotic system which cannot be described even by the most insulting and derogatory adjectives; The Caste system prevalent in India and most of the developing and under developing nations of the world. But, for the sake of being targeted, I’ll limit myself to India.

A small history lesson is required here. Way back in history, about 4500 years ago, the Aryans are supposed to have inhibited Northern India and sparked off Hinduism. The original concept of castes was not on the basis of birth, but on the basis of occupation. This division made administrative sense and still does. The rudimentary form of caste division was similar to certain groups having certain different rules depending on their occupation for better functionality in their profession. It made sense to everyone and soon became the way of life. However, somewhere down the line, this system was taken for granted and turned into a hereditary system i.e. the division of the people into classes gained a basis in birth and not profession. A hierarchy was created which was strictly and rigidly followed so as no one was allowed to climb or descend in their pecking order. A radical lower rung member couldn’t do anything except what his ancestors did for a living and a upper rung purist couldn’t do anything else. Skills, love, talents etc. were tagged “bullshit” as everything from your job, spouse and basically your entire life, was decided by your birth.

Many pose the question, “How the hell do you justify this?” When the same question was posed to a Brahmin in Kashi (Varanasi, Benares whatever), we saw the answer he gave in Stalin’s video. He righteously had put on some shady shades(couldn’t resist it) and scratching his bald spot, he solemnly quoted the Laws of Manu, Chapter 1 Verse 31.The Laws Of Manu is an ancient manuscript written by the desi version of Adam, which lists out the chapter of Genesis Indian style and lays down the ground rules for life. Verses 30 and 31 of Chapter 1 read as:

As at the change of the seasons each season of its own accord assumes its distinctive marks, even so corporeal beings (resume in new births) their (appointed) course of action.

But for the sake of the prosperity of the worlds he caused the Brahmana, the Kshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Shudra to proceed from his mouth, his arms, his thighs, and his feet.

The so called religious heads conveniently ignore Verse 30 and cite Verse 31 as the reason for untouchability because their logic dictates that somehow, God gave them divine rights over the Shudras as they were born from God’s mouth and them from his feet. In return of their argument, I point out Verse 30 which clearly says that human beings, like seasons, have distinctive features which should be the core of their division. Nowhere is the family they are born into mentioned. Plus, it is commonly held that all ancient writings were cryptic et metaphoric. Verse 31 could easily be mistaken for the assignment of duties i.e. a Brahmin created from God’s mouth meant that a Brahmin is a person who teaches and guides society. A Kshatriya was the corporeal representation of God’s hands which meant they were the muscular protective organs of the world. The Vaishyas were from God’s thighs, hardened to deal in clever businesses while the Shudras were the massive workforce of the world represented as God’s feet; always working and dead useful. Each of these segments had their own worth but were primary in their own sense for the proper functioning of society, with the human body as its metaphor.

Moving on from the religious aspect, let’s consider the modern crisis. Many people (sometimes including me) blame the government for the erratic reservation system which ingrains in every Indian the caste system. Initially envisaged as a temporary, 15-20 year measure for the growth of people with backward lifestyles, the caste based reservation system was designed to ensure that until the supposed “backward” people didn’t gain basic rights and educations, they still could enjoy privileges in society. However, 65 years after our Independence, we are nowhere near phasing out the system and are sickly tired of it. The situations created by this reservation are simply pathetic. The sickening feeling a deserving candidate gets when a less performing student gets his or her allotment on the basis of his birth, creates a negative impression. How can a person demand for equal rights when a person is being bluntly given extra privileges? Many protest by saying that backward castes deserve these privileges and they are right in their own holding too, but it’s a debate which lasts forever because the Constitutional reservation system is a caste system in itself, but here in, it’s the other castes at loss because the extra privileges are given to the Scheduled castes, tribes etc.

Then comes in the political factor. Initially tasked with good will (or maybe not), politicians have turned the caste system as a political situation which they can easily exploit. A certain elephant resembling, elephant-symbol using, statue-making corrupt leader is the best example of this situation. The so called “Leader of The Dalits” gave a rat’s fart about their plight and it reflected in her self-glory proclaiming reign as the Chief Minsiter of Uttar Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi, the supposedly young but in his forties leader of India, again gives a rat’s fart about them and all he does is enjoy their delightful cooking in their homes with the Indian chuskiyan of tea. So much for youth leaders!

Eventually, it boils down to conformity and perceptions in our minds. Just claiming to be educated and scientific doesn’t make sense until we actually do. No religion in the world preaches discrimination, so why do its followers? Assimilation into common society is something which is needed, demanded and wanted by today’s youth. Discrimination won’t disappear overnight, it will go away slowly. The RTE is an excellent step forward in this direction. It will not only ensure a kid’s exposure to a varied and wholesome culture in school, it will also facilitate an environment where discrimination doesn’t exist. It may sound very idealistic but the truth of the matter is that to remove something which is rooted, engraved and ingrained in our blood and mind, idealism is the only solution out. Also, it is important to slowly phase out the constitutional reservation system along the terms of the phasing out of the Haj subsidy system, decreasing the percentage year by year. To defend this suggestion, I put forward a valid reasoning. The reservation system was designed so as to give certain privileges do people who were wronged for no reason except their birth. It was a temporary measure because it was expected that educational reforms and the guarantee of individual rights in our nation would set everything right. But, it unfortunately did not happen. Still, better late than never, the RTE was implemented to ensure equal education for everyone. Now as the RTE impact increases, it is only viable and logical to decrease the quota percentages for the reserved seats in any institute or workplace or anywhere else.

I’m no Aamir Khan and nor am I a legislator. I am just a citizen of a democratic nation with a free will to think and speak. Maybe these ideas are right or maybe wrong, but it doesn’t hurt to try, right?

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