Revolution 2020: Corruption, injustice and inequality, what more can one ask for

Chetan Bhaghat’s Revolution 2020 is a stirring story which mirrors love, corruption and ambitions. Bhaghat is a well-renowned Indian writer, who is famous for his novels such as Half GirlfriendTwo StatesCall Centre, among others. We have also seen depiction of his novels in Bollywood movies.

Revolution 2020 revolves around three childhood friends Gopal, Raghav, and Aarti. Gopal belongs to a middle-class family and aims to become a rich man. Hence he uses his knowledge to make money. On the other hand, coming from a wealthy family, Raghav’s goals are to use his intellect to start a revolution and make a difference in the society. Aarti comes from a political family and she plans to become an air hostess.  They strive to find success and happiness in Varanasi (a place in India). However, the twist in the story is that Raghav and Gopal fall in love with the same girl, Aarti.

Despite obtaining a qualified degree in engineering, Raghav becomes a journalist, as per his interest and passion. Gopal attempts to fulfil his father’s wishes but does not qualify, regardless of his two consecutive attempts at the engineering entry test, as he personally holds no interest in the field. Aarti tends to motivate both her friends to follow their own desire and considers Gopal to be her best friend.

Who succeeds between Gopal and Raghav?

This question builds curiosity for the reader, as firstly Gopal supports the system and Raghav fights against the system. Secondly, out of the two lovers, who wins Aarti’s heart?

I particularly like the way the book portrays how the politicians have promoted corruption due to their own selfish interests. In true sense, the book reveals how the politicians are the representatives of the citizens as they are chosen by the public. But after winning their seats and status, most of them do not fulfil their prime duty. Thus to no surprise, the society suffers from instability.

Moving on to the characters, Raghav inspired me the most, specifically his determination to abolish corruption in the society. He launches his own local newspaper which aims to give a voice to the oppressed and discloses what is behind the cover. It is undoubtedly a thought-provoking task.

The vital lessons which one can learn from the book are,

1. It motivates the readers to tell the truth and causes awareness in a society where corruption is at its peak, injustice is common and inequality is widespread.

2. The situation of Pakistani media comes to my attention. The bullet is the price one pays for telling the truth. Those who follow the trends painted by the pressure groups succeed and stay secure. On the other hand, the journalists who work with honesty, ethics and go against the state tend to suffer in chaotic ways. Not only does their professional life suffer, but even their personal life is at risk. Thus silence is their only option.

3. Lastly, this subject is of my interest as it gives me something substantial to learn from.

Besides this, another focal point in the story is career counselling. A number of students are unaware of their subject of interest, especially those who are instructed to choose specific fields by their families or peers.

I recommend this book to college students to attain prior knowledge regarding career counselling. The message this book carries will come in handy; change must come. It’s a requirement for every developing society to progress effectively.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/27687/revolution-2020-corruption-injustice-and-inequality-what-more-can-one-ask-for/

Reza Aslan versus Bill Maher: Learning the crucial difference between culture and religion

Responsible schooling, governance, international diplomacy, accountability and conscientious citizens are the demands of modern society. However, popular media despite its presence in every home, remains the most ignorant, irresponsible and manipulative aspect of modern life.

With its capacity to communicate instantly, the world with its current atmosphere of extremism, global stress and social and political upheavals is more open to suggestions in a way it was never before. Therefore, manipulation by entities with access to an audience has wider influence than before.

Labels are among the pithiest vehicles of language. They appeal most strongly to unthinking individuals, starting with those of all faiths in the pulpit to the common man. A single label – apt in a certain connotation, allows a person to categorise every aspect of life, to encapsulate it into that and this, good and bad, safe and dangerous.

The creation of scapegoats is a human instinct. It was the Jews for Hitler and following their immigration to the US, as a result of the potato famine, the Irish Catholics for the Americans. Till well into the 19th century, “negative stereotypes imported from England characterising the Irish as pugnacious, drunken, semi-savages were common and cartoons depicting the Irish as small, ugly, simian creatures armed with liquor and a shillelagh pervaded the press”.

Since 9/11, language has been powerfully used against Muslims to manipulate global sentiment and perception. Islam and Muslims, the current scapegoats, have been generously helped into the position by Muslims themselves and by others, but none so much as the media. The words ‘Muslim’, ‘beard’, ‘mosque’, ‘jihad’, ‘hajj’ along with many others, have all acquired a potent negative undertone that they do not possess by definition. So much so that anything related to these terms takes on a similar unquestionable impetus which translates into strong social and political consequences.

Reza Aslan, the author of ‘Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth’ and ‘No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam’, in his bouts with CNN and Fox ‘journalists’ such as Lauren Green and Bill Maher underlines this fact. Referring to Maher’s disparaging remarks when he called Muslims ‘mutilators’ (label) and ‘honour killers’ (label), Aslan said that,

“The problem is that you’re talking about a religion of one and a half billion people, and certainly it becomes very easy to just simply paint them all with a single brush.”

Aslan pointed out the difference, a crucial one between culture and religion. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a cultural not an Islamic or Christian practice. It takes place in countries that may be predominantly Muslim or Christian but has nothing to do with the social practices of the people, nor with their religion. Confusing the two is a common trap. Calling it an Islamic practice lays one more damning accusation on the religion which is now blamed for so much that it lays itself open to whatever comes.

What is cultural does not necessarily constitute the religion of a particular society, although the two may coincide. The burqa in the subcontinent is a cultural and not a religious mode of dress, although it has come to represent the particular brand of Islam practiced in the region.

By allowing these labels to slip by unnoticed, we participate in the prejudices and stereotypes they have come to represent, at times unknowingly placed there by journalists but very often quite deliberately by the media and world leaders. Amongst the youth, jihad, a powerful tool towards good is now synonymous with the act of blowing up one’s self and a great number of innocent bystanders, by a bomb strapped onto one’s body.

By participating in the blame game, we fail to recognise faults where they genuinely lie and to do something about them. We fail to educate ourselves and perpetuate the consequences of these labels into our future.

It would be an exercise to pick out as many of these labels as possible, starting perhaps with the ones in this short piece written on the subject.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/29650/reza-aslan-versus-bill-maher-learning-the-crucial-difference-between-culture-and-religion/

Move over, Shaan: Dear Lollywood, please stop with your nepotistic ways

Nepotism has a new face in Pakistan. Can you guess who it is? No, it’s not Nawaz Sharif. It’s not the Bhutto clan. It’s not the politicians or the bureaucracy. All those institutions have been swept aside by that new lady in town. We fondly call her ‘Lollywood’, but she’s more formally known as Pakistan’s film industry.

She isn’t really new, but her recently acquired contemporary ornaments have taken years off her face. She wears Bol around her neck, carries Bin Roye under her arm and has crowned her head with Waar. In step with her is her entourage; a horde of uncles and aunties, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces.

Pakistan’s film industry is flourishing rapidly and the credit essentially goes to the directors and producers who resuscitated it and brought it back from the gallows before a death sentence could have sealed its fate. It is as if they have taken a silent vow to carry the burden of the entire industry themselves. Unfortunately, their appropriation of the film industry has come at a huge cost. The harrowing truth is that the industry only has a handful of actors who get casted – and re-casted. There are only a few names up on the marquee, of which the regulars are Faysal Qureshi, Saba Qamar etc. Every name is a household name.

Although these actors are immensely talented, I can’t help but roll my eyes as I surf through the channels and see the same faces. I know their wrinkles, blemishes and moles by heart now. Therefore, I am on my knees and joining my palms for this desperate plea:

Bring in some new talent, for God’s sake!

Admittedly, there are many young actors who have shot to the top, however, the reality is that they are the relatives of the big names; cousins, sons or daughters of prominent actors of their time. The progeny is stepping in and reaping the gold. That seems to be the norm Pakistan subscribes to.

Take, for instance, the case of Sikander Rizvi. He is the grandson of Noor Jehan, who was a renowned singer of the 90’s. He did not break a sweat as he nabbed the lead for Dekh Magar Pyar Se.

“I never wanted to work in films even though I have always been surrounded by the film stars.  When Fawad dropped out, I happily stepped into his shoes.”

For prospective actors who belong to reputable families with acting legacies, breaking into the industry is as easy as making a phone call. The rest have to meander through the narrow, mean streets of the cinema and television industry with little hope. I, for one, have seen Javed Shaikh and Shaan Shahid in almost every Lollywood film I can possibly think of, and yes, I do object to Bushra Ansari’s recent stint of dragging her sisters into the television business. How many auditions did Asma Abbas have to give to score her big break? I’m sure the number is staggeringly low.

Our film industry is striving for professionalism. Its strategies have garnered successes which cannot be denied by the staunchest of critics. However, the industry has been designed like a roller coaster, not a sturdy train track. It has reached the top with the same old faces, but without fresh blood it will plummet to the bottom.

So, here’s my ardent request to the casting directors and producers:

Put an end to these nepotistic ways. Do not cast your sister’s son as the lead. Hold some auditions. Shake things up.

How can we expect our industry to flourish if we continually overlook our young actors? How can Lollywood add more jewels to her crown without the talent that is roaming the streets aimlessly? Shaan Shahid cannot play all the roles himself.

The current situation dictates that there is no use in studying drama and performing arts. Somebody’s familial ties will win over your talent and hard work. We need to take a page out of Hollywood’s book, perhaps. The American film industry grooms talented young actors and encourages them to step up their game. That is primarily why their industry is considered second to none. In Pakistan, however, the harshness of the industry is discouraging to amateur actors. The ‘tried and tested’ talent will take precedence over them. Actors such as Bushra Ansari or Saba Qamar will take up all the space in films and dramas.

Actor Shaz Khan from Moor (left) and Ahmed Ali from Karachi se Lahore (right)

What is the young talent supposed to do? Bring them chai and hold up a mirror as they refresh their makeup?

I feel sick to my stomach when I see television producers as influential as Momina Duraid relentlessly recruiting the same old actors in her new TV serials. How can we wish for revolutionary change in our industry when we’re applying blush to the same old faces?

I have never heard of an actual ‘audition’ taking place in the big cities of Pakistan, especially for a film. Why, you ask? It is because they already have Mahira Khan and Humaima Malik lined up for a film beforehand.

So here I am, with clasped palms, saying this out loud: our film industry will be in jeopardy if we do not diversify our talent pool. I feel ashamed that there is no opportunity for those hopeful actors who want to be an integral part of our film industry. The hegemony of the oldies has to end.

Mark my words, the public will be bored sooner than you think. Lollywood’s necklaces and her crown will get old and rusty. Have a new one ready soon, before she gets sent to the gallows again.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/29330/move-over-shaan-dear-lollywood-please-stop-with-your-nepotistic-ways/

Kabira is still crying in Pakistan

While many progressives are fond of extolling Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s lament on the unfulfilled promise of postcoloniality, his evocative poem Subh-i-Azadi (The Dawn of Freedom), in prose, it is actually Saadat Hasan Manto who captures the opportunism and political chicanery which characterised the newly-formed state of Pakistan.

In his little-known short story, Dekh Kabira Roya (See, Kabira Cried) published soon after Manto’s reluctant migration to his new country, Manto uses the famous 15th century Sufi poet Bhagat Kabir as a protagonist to presciently satirise the emerging trends of intolerance, orthodoxy and cultural chauvinism in the newly-independent state, which are all too familiar in Pakistan in the 21st century.

As such, this fable may also be read today as an accurate socio-political parable for modern Pakistan, or as a disguised, albeit thinly, autobiographical portrait of Manto’s own Kabirian plight during the eight years he survived in independent Pakistan. I am presenting it here in the original English translation on the occasion of International Translation Day today, as well as the fact that 2015 marks Manto’s 60th death anniversary.

The news spread like wildfire; anyone found begging would be arrested. The arrests began. People began to celebrate, since a very ancient curse had been banished.

When Kabir witnessed this, his eyes brimmed with tears. People asked,

“O weaver! Why do you cry?”

Kabir replied, crying,

“Cloth constitutes of two things, fibre and thread. The fibre of arrests has indeed been initiated, but where is the thread for filling the empty belly?”

An MA LLB was allocated 200 looms. When Kabir saw this, his eyes brimmed with tears. The MA LLB asked him,

“O weaver’s son! Why do you cry? That I have forcibly taken away what is your right?”

Kabir replied, crying,

“Your law explains to you the point about leaving the looms alone, and to sell the quota you get for the thread. What’s the point of this useless noise after all, if you can do without it for free? But this noise is the weaver’s life.”

Large and small envelopes were being made out of the formatted leaves of a published book. Kabir picked up a few envelopes and upon reading the printed words, his eyes brimmed with tears. The envelope-maker asked in amazement,

“Mr Kabir, why are you crying?”

Kabir replied,

“These papers are replete with Bhagat Surdas’s poetry. Don’t demean it by making envelopes out of it.”

The envelope-maker said in amazement,

“One who has a name like Surdas can never be a Bhagat.”

Kabir began to weep incessantly.

A very beautiful idol of (the Hindu goddess) Lakshmi was erected atop a high building. When some people made the building their office, they covered the idol with dirty rags. When Kabir saw this, his eyes welled up. The office workers consoled him and said,

“Our religion does not permit such idols.”

Kabir said, looking at the dirty rags with moist eyes,

“To defile the beautiful is also not permitted in any religion.”

The office people began to laugh. Kabir began to weep inconsolably.

The general addressed his combat-ready army,

“Food is short, but we don’t care. The crops are ruined, no worries. Our soldiers will take on the enemy on an empty stomach.”

Two hundred thousand soldiers began to shout

Zindabaad”

(Long Live)

Kabir began to cry at the top of his voice. The general got infuriated and cried out,

“O man, can you tell why you cry?”

Kabir said in a weeping voice,

“O my brave general who will fight hunger?”

Two hundred thousand men began to shout

“Kabir Murdabaad”

(Death to Kabir)

“Brothers, keep a beard. Trim your moustaches and wear the ordained pyjamas. Sisters, wear your hair in a single braid, don’t apply make-up, wear the burqa!” a man was shouting in the bazaar.

When Kabir saw this, his eyes became moist.

The shouting man cried in an even higher pitch,

“Kabir, why have you started crying?”

Kabir replied, controlling his tears,

“You neither have a brother nor sister. And why have you dyed your own beard, wasn’t it better to have let it be?”

The shouter began to abuse Kabir and Kabir’s tears began to overflow.

A heated argument was going on.

“Literature for literature’s sake.”

“What nonsense! Literature for life’s sake.”

“That age is past; literature is another name for propaganda.”

“Damn you…”

“Damn your Stalin…”

“Damn your reactionary and sick Flaubert and Baudelaire!”

Kabir began to cry. The arguers ceased their argument to pay attention to Kabir. Someone asked,

“There must be something in your subconscious which was hurt.”

Another said,

“These tears are a result of bourgeois tragedy.”

Kabir began to cry more forcefully. The arguers unanimously queried in a tired voice,

“Mister, tell us why do you cry?”

Kabir said,

“I cried so that you can understand whether literature is for literature’s sake or life’s sake.”

The arguers laughed. One of them said,

“He is a proletarian jester.”

Another said,

“No no, he is a bourgeois charlatan.”

Kabir’s eyes refilled with tears.

An order was promulgated for all the city’s prostitutes to marry within a month and take to decent living. Kabir passed a red light area and upon seeing the discoloured faces of the prostitutes, he started crying. A maulvi (religious cleric) asked him,

“Maulana, why are you crying?”

Kabir answered, crying,

“What spousal arrangements will the teachers of morality devise for these prostitutes?”

The maulvi didn’t comprehend Kabir’s response and laughed. Kabir’s eyes became moister.

A man was addressing a crowd of 10 – 12,000 people,

“Brothers, the case of the salvaged women is our biggest problem. We should find a solution first and foremost. If we remain negligent, these women will take to prostitution. And become whores. Do you hear, will become whores.

It is your responsibility to save them from this terrible future and to accommodate them in your homes. Before you yourself, your brother or your son get married, you should never ever forget these women.”

Kabir began to cry inconsolably. The speaker stopped and pointing at Kabir loudly addressed the audience,

“See this person has been so deeply moved.”

Kabir said in a sobbing tone,

“O Emperor of Words, your speech hasn’t moved me one tiny bit. I am thinking that you have yet remained a bachelor yourself for want of marrying a wealthy woman, so my eyes brimmed over.”

A shop-board had the following inscription on it, ‘Jinnah Boot House’. Upon seeing it, Kabir began to cry inconsolably.

People saw a man standing, his eyes fixed to the board and crying constantly, they began to clap their hands,

“A madman, a madman!”

When the country’s greatest leader passed away, there was mourning far and wide. Many people began to walk around with black bands worn on their arms. When Kabir saw this, his eyes welled up. The black band-wearers asked him,

“Why are you so afflicted that you started crying?”

Kabir replied,

“If these black bands are collected, they can clothe thousands.”

The black band-wearers began to beat up Kabir.

“You are a communist, fifth-columnist, a traitor to Pakistan.”

Kabir laughed,

“But friends, I am not wearing a band of any colour on my arm!”

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/29644/kabira-is-still-crying-in-pakistan/

#IStandWithIndianMuslims: Indian police detain ‘Muslim’ lambs on Eidul Azha

In international conferences on human rights, India likes to claim it is all for freedom of religion and equal rights. When countered on social media with respect to its minorities, right-wing Indians become defensive, claiming they treat their minorities all too well and it is the Indian Muslims who like to whine for nothing.

“This country exists in the name of Hinduism and Muslims should accept their second-class status here. What’s the big deal? Can’t Muslims be thankful we gave them a home?” said one of the country’s leading Hindu cleric Pundit Srinath Ramkumar, echoing the sentiment of the right-wing Hindus.

India has long supported extremist clerics in their persecution of Muslims. To appease the clergy, the state even exploits legal and constitutional means to discriminate against and deny the rights of the Muslims. The latest in this long list of atrocities is the recent arrest of Muslim males – along with their ‘Muslim’ cows and lambs – by the Indian police in various parts of the country.

It all started with a petition filed by an overzealous Hindu to prevent India’s Muslim community from the rites of animal sacrifice on Eidul Azha.

In the original petition submitted on September 12th, Ajay Ram Shankar, a local of the Shalimar Bagh area in Delhi stated that he read an online newspaper published by the Muslim community stating that the rites of animal sacrifice were being carried out on Eid day at the Jama Masjid (Grand Mosque) in Delhi.

Mr Ram Shankar stressed that the Indian Constitution did not allow the Muslim community to sacrifice animals on Eid. He therefore requested the court to direct the Delhi police to take action and protect the pure Hindu identity of India. The Delhi High Court forwarded the matter to the regional police to proceed in the matter in accordance with law.

Mir Shakeeluddin, a spokesperson of the Jama Masjid Delhi, complained that it had become very difficult for Muslims to sacrifice animals on Eidul Azha. He said he had been receiving reports for several years about the use of police force by Hindu extremist groups to prevent Muslims from performing Eid rituals.

“Instead of assuring the security of the Muslims, the police are obstructing our religious freedom. Are we not equal citizens of India?” he bemoaned.

Mr Shakeeluddin also made references to numerous similar unfortunate incidents in the past few years. Many Muslims in the Janakpuri, Lajpat Nagar, Shahdara, Mukandpur, and Badli localities of Delhi have been arrested on Eid day. The police in these areas detained Sunni Muslim males along with their sacrificial animals for many hours to days. They were only released after submitting a written assurance that they would refrain from animal sacrifice.

Rashid Ahmed, a local Muslim teacher who spent his Eid day in detention this year, away from his family, was shocked at the absurdity of the whole thing. He lamented.

“The government has already placed restrictions on our religious freedom. We are stopped from saying the Azaan, reading the Holy Quran and saying our prayers freely, on referring to the mosque as a house of God etc. And now this? I want to ask the Hindu clergy what is next? Will they stop us from breathing because we breathe like the Hindus?”

Eleven-year-old Hasan Mahmood, who is a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar, could not believe what had just happened.

“My dad spent one day in the police station, but what I don’t understand is why they detained my lamb?” he curiously asked.

The Hindu right-wingers believe that before Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH), it was a Hindu God who set in this tradition of lamb sacrifice. As such, only Hindus have the right to offer this ritual.

“No one will be allowed to copy our holy traditions. Like Coca-Cola would not allow any other company to use their logo, we will ensure no one uses our holy rituals to make a mockery of our faith,” said Pundit RamRam Motiwala, while justifying the police action against the Muslims.

When the Delhi police were contacted for comment, police spokesperson, Inspector Sarju Golmaal said the police are acting within the law in the best interest of the Muslims. Barring any action by police, local Hindu clerics will be tempted to enter the Muslim houses and stop the sacrifice on their own.

“Is this what you want?” he asked, angrily pointing at the reporter.

Amidst the craziness, India’s civil society and liberal circles on social media openly condemned this move.

“Pakistan has launched a satellite to Mars and look at our issues here at home. How embarrassing!” said Indian journalist Janam Kapoor.

The Indian government, as usual, remains shamelessly silent on this embarrassing violation of the freedom of religion of India’s Muslim population.

When will Indians garner the courage to stand up to this religious extremism and continued bullying by extremist Hindu clerics?

When will the state stop appeasing to their demands and consider the Muslims their own?

While we press Indian authorities and the public for answers, let us show our support for Indian Muslims through social media and tweet out #IStandWithIndianMuslims. Let us reach out to them and extend our #EidMubarak to them.

This simple gesture of solidarity might be the least we can do.

This is a satirical take on this original news item from Pakistan.


Key:

India = Pakistan

Pakistan = India

Muslims = Ahmadis

Hindus = Constitutional Muslims

Hinduism = Islam

Delhi = Chiniot

Sachin Tendulkar = Shahid Afridi

Mr Shakeeluddin = Saleemuddin

#IStandWithIndianMuslims = #IStandWithPakistaniAhmadis

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/29638/istandwithindianmuslims-indian-police-detain-muslim-lambs-on-eidul-azha/

There is no freedom of speech in India, it’s a myth

During one of his court hearings, legendary writer Saadat Hasan Manto told a judge,

“A writer picks up his pen only when his sensibility is hurt.” 

I am appalled by the senseless murder of one of the most noted and progressive thinkers and scholars of Kannada, MM Kalburgi. Verily, as I write this, my heart bleeds and tears trickle down my cheeks, for yet another sane voice has been silenced by the religious fascist forces in the world’s largest democracy. Yet another rationalist and good human being has been gunned down for speaking his mind.

Septuagenarian Kalburgi was shot dead by two na maloom afrad (unidentified men) at his residence at Dharwad in north Karnataka on August 30, 2015.

What was his fault?

He dared to exercise his constitutional right to free speech and held opposing views from those in power. Through his extensive research and writings, he sought to enlighten people’s minds, stressing on the need to inculcate scientific tempers amongst the people, especially the youth.

Kalburgi’s murder brings to fore a worrying trend in India of silencing people for holding contrarian views. His assassination also reminds us of the unfortunate murders of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, who had dedicated their lives to combat superstitions and to promote broader social reform.

Their ‘sin’ was to dream of an egalitarian India, a country where everybody would be treated as an equal, regardless of their creed, caste, race, and religion.

MM Kalburgi was known for his extensive research on the 12th century old Vachanas and the literary work of Basava, the founder of Lingayatism.

HS Anupama, an activist and writer based in coastal Karnataka, says his murder could have been an act to silence his ideologies.

“In my opinion, it was a mind target, to silence the person. There are many people including Kalburgi who vehemently opposed the Sangh Parivar and its ideology — although we cannot say his killing was the work of Sangh Parivar. There are many facets to this killing… Any idea slightly challenging to those in power is not being tolerated today. Freedom of speech is a farce and nearly non-existent, with so many in the country being silenced for their ideas,” Anupama told a news agency.

MM Kalburgi had pointed out that Lingayats could not be a part of the Hindu religion since the community according to Basava’s scriptures did not believe in idol worship, temple construction, or the caste system through his writings.

Political leaders of Lingayats, a majority community in Karnataka, were undergoing talks regarding a merger with the state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Did MM Kalburgi’s writings, in a way, pose threats to the Hindutva ideologues?

MM Kalburgi’s murder has shocked those who knew him and his work.

“Killing a 77-year-old man for his ideologies is an act of cowardice. He had a scientific way of analysing many things. He may have been killed, but his ideas cannot be,” said Narendra Nayak, President of the Federation of Rationalists’ Association of India.

India’s free thinkers and best minds are being systematically eliminated one by one, for only a week after MM Kalburgi’s murder, another rationalist writer KS Bhagwan received a threat letter, warning him with the following words.

“Your time is over.”

The letter read,

“We have finished three people, next is your turn, no amount of police protection will help. Your time is over, count the days.”

Reacting to the threat, KS Bhagwan said,

“It shows utter ignorance on the part of those who wrote the letter. They wouldn’t have even read a page of my writing. I write on the basis of my research. If they have objections about it, they can always oppose it in a civilised way.”

“This is not the first time I have received such threats, I’m not afraid.”

It should be noted that co-convener of the Bajrang Dal’s Bantwal cell, Bhuvith Shetty, was arrested for allegedly threatening KS Bhagwan on Twitter for ‘mocking Hinduism’. Shetty had allegedly welcomed the assassination of scholar MM Kalburgi. While his Twitter account was inaccessible after his controversial tweet, screenshots of his tweet had gone viral.

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This simmering undercurrent of fascism is extremely worrying and it’s led to many sleepless nights here.

There is no freedom of speech in India, it’s a myth. If there was any such thing, rationalists like MM Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare would not have been killed for their intellectually stimulating writings.

People are, however, free to pull punches and call each other names, give hate speeches, resort to abusive language, demolish places of worship, plant bombs, stoke up communal tensions, and murder rationalists like MM Kalburgi. People even have the audacity to ignore the issue of the farmers’ suicides.

What is even more disturbing is the state’s silence and failure to bring the culprits to book. What kind of India do they want to build by eliminating its best minds and critical thinkers?

People have every right to disagree with these rationalists on issues they were raising and debate and protest in a civilised way. But how can they just bump off someone for his or her ideas?

Intellectual levels cannot be the same for everyone, for we are what we read. The more you read, the more it broadens your mind-set. No society, religion, sect or country in this world is perfect, for remember, they were made by man. It was the man who made religion, it was the man who wrote holy texts, it was he who built caste system, it was he who formed nations, and it was he who built nuclear bombs.

With time we evolve, for change is the only constant thing in the world. India is not perfect. Pakistan is not perfect. Humanity will find a way.

How can man-made things be perfect? If that is not the case, why can’t they be evaluated and analysed critically? It is a pity while good people are being killed for merely writing blogs, books, and defending human rights, bigots who promote hatred and commit murders go on to enjoy a high status in life. Isn’t it a matter of great regret that those who killed Mahatma Gandhi, a wonderful human being, rule the roost in India today?

Nathuram Godse had said that he killed Gandhi because he was ‘an enemy of Hinduism’. The Punjabi refugee, Madanlal, who made a failed attempt on Gandhi’s life by exploding a bomb at the latter’s prayer meeting at Birla House on January 20, 1948 also thought the same.

This is what Gandhi said in his speech at prayer meeting next day,

“You should not have any kind of hate against the person who was responsible for this. He had taken it for granted that I am an enemy of Hinduism. Is it not said in chapter IV2 of the Gita that whenever the wicked become too powerful and harm dharma God sends someone to destroy them? The man who exploded the bomb obviously thinks that he has been sent by God to destroy me. I have not seen him. But I am told that is what he said when questioned by the police. He was well dressed too. But I am sure God is not out of His mind to continue sending such men. If we do not like a man, does it mean that he is wicked? Even if I become wicked in the eyes of everyone, I shall not be considered such in the court of God.

If then someone kills me, taking me for a wicked man, will he not have to answer before God? Let us pray that God may grant him good sense. When he says he was doing the bidding of God, he is only making God an accomplice in a wicked deed. But it cannot be so.

Therefore, those who are behind him should know that this sort of thing will not save Hinduism. If Hinduism has to be saved, it will be saved through work which is similar to what I am doing. I have been imbibing Hindu dharma right from my childhood. My nurse, who literally brought me up, taught me to invoke Rama whenever I faced any fears.

With God’s grace, I came in contact with noble and good persons later on in life who happened to be Hindus. I was blessed enough to partake in good company of Christian and Muslim friends as well, who too could not influence me otherwise. Therefore having passed all the tests, I am as staunch a Hindu today as intuitively I was at the age of five or six.

If God deems it fit to make anyone the instrument for saving Hindu dharma, it could be none but me. Do you want to annihilate Hindu dharma by killing a devout Hindu like me?”

The murderers of Gandhi, MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar have done no good to Hindu dharma. Likewise, the killers of Sabeen Mahmud, God rest her soul in peace, also think she was fit to be killed as she was indulging in ‘anti-Pakistan’ activities by healing the wounds of Balochis.

As Jesus Christ looked down from the cross whereto he was cruelly nailed, he saw the Roman soldiers casting lots for his clothing, the criminals on the crosses to either side of him reviling him, the religious leaders mocking him, and the crowd blaspheming him. Jesus looked down upon this most unworthy lot and said,

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/29450/there-is-no-freedom-of-speech-in-india-its-a-myth/

“Could I have done more?” – A psychiatrist’s struggle with patient suicide

It’s a story I feel compelled to tell. It may be therapeutic for me and possibly for others as well. It’s a story that needs to be told. But I hesitate. I fear the stigma. I am afraid of being judged. I fear breaking the silence. I ruminate about the potential repercussions.

What if I, a psychiatrist, wrote about my own emotional conundrum after a patient chose to end his life?

Can I open the private vault of personal grief that filled me with his untimely and unnatural departure?

I want to narrate the tumultuous aftermath of patient suicide, the distressing combination of grief sans closure, perilous self-doubt and professional impotence to undo it.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America and every 40 seconds someone commits suicide. It happens and it happens a lot. But it’s hardly talked about by the “treating survivors” of patient suicide; the psychiatrists, therapists and other mental health care providers who cared for the ones that lost their lives via suicide.

The hesitation and the apprehension are real. Suicide is also the number one cause of lawsuits brought against mental health providers.

Should I take a chance and disclose this vulnerability?

Should I disclose that I had played our last appointment over and over in my head to look for clues for what I could have done differently? That I had stressed my brain to recall all details of that half hour in the office. His mannerisms, what I had said, what he had brought up, my responses, the colour of his outfit, the time of the day, the pauses between his sentences. Is it okay to say that I had questioned my ability to assess suicide risk despite all my training and experience? Could reveal that I had reviewed quietly in my head, the standard of care that I had provided? Should I say that I cried? Should I say that I mourned?

It is customary in a psychiatric appointment to ask an individual about suicidal ideations and thoughts. This is especially true when treating individuals with depression. Suicide is often a complication of depressive illness. Depression envelopes an individual in a cloud of darkness that swirls around them day and night, with no access to the light of the outside world. It’s visible through the eyes of the depressed and you look for that glimmer of hope to reassure you that they will hold on to life. They, sometimes, verbally reassure you,

“Doc, I am not going to do anything, I won’t be the patient you will get the call about.”

You reassure them that they will get better, the appointment ends and they leave with another appointment card. Then, you pick up the next chart and get busy with another life and another story.
But then you do get the call one day.

The call that is mechanical yet doom-ridden. It can be from an ER or the police department, asking if you knew this person. The past tense in ‘knew’ makes your heart stop and sink. Your mind flashes to the last appointment.

The film reel starts to run. Beginning to the end. Thirty minutes that get burned in your memory for you relive them so much that they singe any other comforting thoughts trying to crowd them. Despite everything you did, you keep asking yourself,

“Could I have done more?”

You experience sadness and loss but you can’t disclose why. You feel anxious, isolated and apprehensive. You are engulfed by grief and fear simultaneously. Grief of the loss and fear for you couldn’t stop what you think you were hired to prevent. It’s a grief that must be felt in private just like those sessions are, private and confidential.

Maybe your own family understands your dilemma but the confidentiality of your profession stops you from openly talking about it. Sometimes the malpractice attorney tells you to stay silent. You think about calling the family or going to the funeral, you try to do the right thing.

What if I admit that I have doubted my professional abilities since I heard it had happened? I even wondered if I am in the right line of work. Is it okay to say that I took a week off after it happened to regroup? Can I justify in writing those pangs of anxiety I had felt every time a depressed patient left the office?

Losing a patient to suicide affects how one treats subsequent patients. The perceived “reasons” of what might have caused it remain at play.

Sometimes you overcompensate and ask each and every patient, depressed or not, if they are feeling suicidal at every appointment, even though it annoys some of them. Sometimes it’s the avoidance of patients with suicidality.

“Are you having thoughts of harming yourself?”

“I told you, suicide is not an option, I don’t want to go to hell.”

Or,

“I would never do that to my kids.”

But in your heart, do you really trust the monster of depression to not take the best of their fragile frame of mind? Those few moments before they actually do something, they aren’t rational. When they pull the trigger or take the pills or take that knife to their wrist, their decision making is impaired, that’s what the research says. You focus on the trivial. Maybe the number of suicide hotlines should be increased and made more available at the clinic? Maybe the waiting room needs more literature on this topic? Maybe I should attend another t6raining on “Suicide Risk Assessment”?

You question your treatment choices. Maybe they never filled the prescriptions. Maybe the medications taken did not work? Maybe they worked too soon.

The risk of suicide with antidepressants is highest in the initial two to three weeks, when treatment improves, there is not enough energy to follow through with a suicidal plan but the mood is still profoundly sad.

Can I say that I had a hard time sleeping in wake of such an event? Is it okay for a physician to accept their vulnerability and write about it?

What if I wrote his story? What if I wrote about how it changed my own story?

This post originally appeared here.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/29507/could-i-have-done-more-a-psychiatrists-struggle-with-patient-suicide/