OPINION

India's Post-Independence Fight For Freedom

February 27, 2009
Aditi Nadkarni

Let me cut right to the chase here. This is unacceptable. Let me say it again for emphasis. It is not just bothersome or even upsetting. It is unacceptable. In the 21st century, in a democratic, secular nation, what has been going on, festering like a recurrent lesion, sprouting in every part of India, is just, simply unacceptable and will not do.

In case you are wondering who it is that's going to stand up to it: we are. We will not allow our freedom to be violated and we will make sure we protect the independence we fought long and hard to get the first time around. We have come a long way. We have seen the change and been the change. So who better than our pioneering, hot-blooded breed to stand up to the revolting and shockingly regressive acts of a few who feel threatened by progress.

They are just acting out of fear. It is obvious, isn't it? They attack in packs, afraid to be the lone ones incriminated. They target women and assault safely from behind the vague curtains of culture. But we all know that it isn't their culture that is in grave danger. Their position, their power and the extent of their bullying is in great peril. The places where they once ruled the roost are now turning into big, bustling cities making them feel like small, insignificant fish in a big sea.

Institutions and companies have transported the educated, smart crowd into the vacuum in which these bullies once enjoyed unfettered omnipotence. Now, in place of the void, there is a young, vivacious bunch of professionals, men and women who work hard and party hard and do so shoulder to shoulder. These people are harder to manipulate. This crowd has not just taken over, they threaten to pull into their growing ilk, the younger ones too. Business are bending over backwards to accommodate the needs of this new species and everything that once belonged to the bullies is now up for grabs. So they are retaliating. They are like petulant little children who couldn't have all that they demanded, hated sharing and so now are acting up. Therefore it is up to us, the educated class to teach these spoiled little brats to grow up and stop reacting so bizarrely to change. We must do it in a manner that is as different from theirs as is humanly possible.

So now comes the big question: how do we do it? How do we make our presence known? The answer may seem too simplistic because it sits smack in front of our faces. Think about it: we travel through these cities like one stream of blood, flowing steadily, keeping the city alive, stuffed in trains, piled into buses, walking along the teeming streets. Even partying and a trip to the movie theater is all the more fun with a group. We work in teams and are all the more effective for that. We discuss films, fashion, clothes, the economy, the job market and even our health problems. Yet this fear of walking out on the streets of a free country seems like a personal problem, like we were alone in that walk, like when a bully arrived with his little gang and punched us in the face, we would be all by ourselves and the world around us would just suddenly go blind. What we forget is that in this lonely fear too, we are still together. In this anger against the unfairness of the situation, we are together. We can if we decided, be together in the one resolute determination of not letting a handful of insecure men undo all that we have put into making our cities. So the answer is simple. Whatever it is we do, we do it together.

We celebrated Valentine's Day battling fear and took the threats in our stride defanging the demons with the pink disarming humor of our proud underwear. With the International Women's Day approaching, it is time to get serious. In our busy, routine lives we have underestimated the power of silent, non-violent protests. All it takes is for people to stand at a side-walk with banners to get word around. Some major struggles were won with this strategy and somewhere along the line we just shrugged and rolled our eyes at the quiet potential of public demonstrations and satyagrahas. Maybe we started taking our precious freedom for granted and needed to be reminded that we simply cannot. We have to earn it and when someone tries to snatch it, we fight for it.

It is important, I feel, in today's world to use media smartly. Instead of constantly criticizing media's inadequacies, we could use it as a tool. Find a niche and throw yourself into the swift current of this ever growing medium. Find a female leader in your area who is looking to make an arrival on the political scene. Do a little research. If one political party is making your life difficult for wearing jeans and celebrating Valentine's Day and there damn well must be another party that will fight for your votes, or can be persuaded to do so.

Find a celebrity who is willing to make your cause their own or give your movement their support and voice. Find a television network, a newspaper or a magazine that will run your story and provide your opinions with a voice. Find an artist who will put your thoughts into a slogan or a creative, riveting poster. Write to your city officials, your ministers and drown their offices in letters of your indignant protest. Just remember that one or two voices are easy to be ignored. If you are fuming over a coffee mug at your kitchen table, take that rage to a medium that will express it in the most noticeable manner possible.

Haven't we whined about a dysfunctional system for too long? When has this "system" ever worked? Maybe we just don't realize that we are one of the appendages of this faulty system. If the system is not working, we, as a group could propel in into motion. What will it take for us to get off our bums and make a placard with a strong message on it? This is not a women's liberation movement at all. Genders cannot be fighting alone in a battle such as this one. It could be your sister wearing jeans, coming home from work. It could be your teenage daughter walking back from school or college, the neighborhood aunty who brought you food when you were sick, a dear friend or your colleague. Most importantly, it is them today and it could be you next.

Let us review what the odds are of your being targeted next. You have a very high chance of being next on the hit-list if you answer 'Yes' for any of the following questions. Are you considered an "outsider" in Bangalore or a non-Maharashtrian in Maharashtra? Do you party? Do you meet up with friends at pubs? Do you wear jeans or clothing that may not be considered "Indian"? Do you eat pizza or meat? Do you drink alcoholic beverages? Does your religious persuasion always match that of the political party currently raging a mini-war in the nation you know of as secular? Do you send children to convent or English medium schools? Do you have a spouse of a different religious persuasion than yours? Do you have friends of the opposite sex? Are you married to the girl you are driving home from work or who you happen to be having dinner with? Are you non-conversant in Marathi in Mumbai or in Kannada in Bangalore? Are you a blogger or a journalist who expresses their opinions about politics, culture, media and religion? In spite of your qualifications and the six figure salary, do you have no clout with the local law enforcement or political activists? Before you fall asleep at night you should take a moment to wonder which one of these labels will be tagged onto your identity and turned into a vice or a disqualification; which one of these labels will plant nagging fear into your routine as you go about working to make a living, partying to rid your stress and walking on the streets of a country whose freedom you celebrate once a year on a public holiday. India did fight a freedom struggle years ago and it is high time that yet another quest for independence begins.

As a civilized society, we must remember that curbed freedom is a disease, an epidemic that does not spare a gender or a certain religion. It has uprooted saplings of modern, free thinking from Afghanistan and left it barren under the regime of the Taliban school of thought. This disease feeds on your fear and on the social inertia that has settled over our generation. An active, proud and independent public cannot let this inertia set in. Let it be known that this disease feeds most of all on the little disabling voice in your head which tells you that this is not your struggle, that it isn't your battle to fight. Sadly, this malady spreads, swallowing in its wake our hard-earned progress, until the feeble voice in your head is one day replaced with the grim realization that your own struggle has arrived. The assailant and his prejudice have changed form and you are the next prey. And there is nobody left to fight for you or with you.

Aditi Nadkarni is a cancer researcher, a film reviewer and a poet; her many occupations are an odd yet fun miscellany of creative pursuits. Visit her blog for more of her articles and artistic as well as photographic exploits.
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#1
Chandra
February 27, 2009
08:54 AM

Good thoughts! But to implement this you should be in India

#2
smallsquirrel
February 27, 2009
09:16 AM

Brava, Aditi and I say it once again BRAVA!

I can only hope that people do stand up and take this seriously. It is extremely serious. I think people in India have become far too complacent, and are used to a galata here and there, and come to think that in the end it will all go away and nothing will come of it.

That time is over. The world is moving fast.

See, these goondas you speak of, they are about to lose their places, so they are fighting hard. And in order to win, we have to fight back just as hard. If they entrench themselves, and people remain silent, what is to stop them from taking another inch, and then another, and then another. This is how the worldly, educated, fashionable and sociable women of Afghanistan found themselves relegated to burkhas and begging on the streets.

I will admit I am scared to go back to bangalore. It is my second home and I am too scared to return. What if I am assaulted and no one helps me? I cannot rely on anyone but myself and my husband. What if the goondas snatch him up and thrash him for being married to a gora? And oh my god, what of my child.

In the end I know I eventually must face this problem. My husband is willing to fight this shit, and so I must be too. My daughter is a kannadiga, and I must be willing to fight for her too. She should not be afraid to return to the city of her birth, even with her white skin and her spotty kannada (ok, so she is only 19 months old, but...)

I will not let some asshole ruin bangalore for me. Not a group of them, not a truckload of them.

Who is with me?

#3
Deepti Lamba
URL
February 27, 2009
09:49 AM

I keep telling myself that I cannot run away, that I have to be brave in case shit comes my way. But like you said SS it just isn't me. What if they target my family? That is my biggest fear. I guess we have to take precautions, not give in to road rage and always keep our wits about ourselves.

Aditi, beautiful article and by being a cancer researcher you are already doing a big service for all humanity. I lost both my in laws to cancer and know how traumatic the disease can be.

There are different ways in which one can make their presence known. Physical presence is not always important. If we can convince one person that whats going on is wrong it goes a long way. The ripple effect works!

Lets get cracking!

#4
Aditi N
February 27, 2009
09:49 AM

Chandra: I do feel utterly helpless about being here and not being able to do as much as I desperately want. But I have also discovered certain things that I can do from here. Let's hope those work. Meanwhile I really really think the college-going crowd in India can do something. They are the ones who have that enthusiasm and that team spirit. They can do a whole lot. Read on my comment to SS. I have some ideas and maybe we can do something without being in India.

SS: Thanks. We really need to get the word around. If you have friends who are in Bangalore email them this article. Let us start a movement and not just stop with an article or a few thoughts. We can get the wheels turning in our own way.

Here is what I am thinking. I think we should have Americans involved too. So get as many people on board as you possibly can. After all this is a question of democracy. We should have them draft letters and send them in by the hundreds to the ministers, the prime minister and to newspapers. This will get attention and get people wondering as to why they are receiving letters from people across the seas. The Pink Chaddi Campaign proved that in the fight for freedom we are no longer alone and the issue can be made international.

These goons need to be humiliated and embarrassed. They need to find out how small their numbers and their outreach is. If the world converges and makes it known then the impact will be greater.

I want commentators to put up more such ideas for drives that we can start as an online movement but which will be taken to fruition by our counterparts in India.

#5
Roshan
URL
February 27, 2009
10:19 AM

I'm with you! I can't see my country being torn apart on such issues. If we do not speak up and act now, we will ruin not just Bangalore, but the rest of India.


I sometimes wonder why are our politicians and governments so indifferent to such attacks on individual rights and such narrow minded politics? Are people like us too little for them to care? Is there more support among the masses for what happens in the name of culture, region and religion??


And Aditi, I answered 'Yes' to all except the one about kids in convent. That means I should be high on the target list :P

#6
Ledzius
February 27, 2009
11:05 AM

I hope this doesn't lead to more "chaddi campaigns".

I don't think much can be done in India. What we are witnessing is here to stay. We are a third world country and will remain to be so. At least we should be thankful we won't be seeing the kind of civil warfare like in Rwanda or degenerate into total chaos like Pakistan.

The causes are both cultural and racial. Some things cannot be changed overnight.

#7
Kerty
February 27, 2009
12:11 PM

"... wonder why are our politicians and governments so indifferent to such attacks on individual rights and such narrow minded politics? Are people like us too little for them to care? Is there more support among the masses for what happens in the name of culture, region and religion??"

Politicians and government do respond to people's aspirations, but not to agenda that may be seen to be too narrow or harmful to common good and society at large. And in their eyes, issues/targets that Aditi has highlighted are issues faced by everybody - they are special interests, narrow-based, polarizing and alien - they do not affect masses, so masses would not join it, and politicians would ignore its hysteria in the medias, and society will scoff at such agenda. Politicians usually heed to issues raised in the name of culture and religion because culture and religion can move the masses, and aspirations and concerns of masses do get reflected in them. If you can match the mass base, your issues too will trump and politicians would bend over backward.

The clarion call for Swaraj had worked because people wanted to free their country from alien yoke - the movement was able to enlist masses because it identified with aspirations of masses. The masses wanted independence from ideas and institutions that they considered to be alien. They wanted freedom for their way of life, their culture and their religion. They wanted independence to have their own self government. Now what you are defining as freedom movement is opposite of what previous generations fought for - you want freedom from India, freedom from Indian way of life, freedom from Indian culture and religion, freedom from Indianness, Indian ethnicity and Indian languages, and define that as a new freedom movement. You want to bring back rule of alien ideas, alien institutions, alien way of life, alien culture, alien rulers and call it independence movement. No matter what you name it, it is still a cultural jehad, a civilizational war and you can't wage culture war without casualties on both sides. You may offer Gandhigiri, but do not expect other side to offer Gandugiri too

#8
kerty
February 27, 2009
12:45 PM

Oops. #7 correction. It should read as:

And in their eyes, issues/targets that Aditi has highlighted are ***NOT*** issues faced by everybody

#9
SD
February 27, 2009
12:59 PM

You said: "They wanted freedom for their way of life, their culture and their religion...Now what you are defining as freedom movement is opposite of what previous generations fought for"

How is it different?

Freedom for one's way of life, their culture, their religion. Sounds like its the exactly same thing that the above article urges people to fight for. Every individual has their own way of life, religion, beliefs, culture etc and have the right to follow those. All those years ago the British got to decide what your way of life, culture and religion got to be and now a few bullies do? How is it any different?

It should not matter if the perpetrator obstructing one's freedom is British or Indian.

Freedom is freedom.

"And in their eyes, issues/targets that Aditi has highlighted are ***NOT*** issues faced by everybody"

During the British rule, there were always people who preferred that the British stay and govern India. Then too the "issues" weren't everybody's. The British too downplayed the freedom movement until they realized that the tide was upto their noses.

If people cannot feel safe in a free country then what use is such freedom?

Maybe the social inertia that Aditi refers to is the reason people like Ledzius and kerty don't really know what it is that the Indian masses truly want. But only when you have dissenters does a movement really feel like a movement.

#10
Ledzius
February 27, 2009
01:21 PM

Aditi - "Here is what I am thinking. I think we should have Americans involved too."

Huh? You want them to send some Predator drones over Bangalore?


"So get as many people on board as you possibly can. After all this is a question of democracy. We should have them draft letters and send them in by the hundreds to the ministers, the prime minister and to newspapers. This will get attention and get people wondering as to why they are receiving letters from people across the seas. The Pink Chaddi Campaign proved that in the fight for freedom we are no longer alone and the issue can be made international."

I still don't understand what the Pink Chaddi campaign actually accomplished. It was quite ridiculous, to be honest.


"These goons need to be humiliated and embarrassed."

The more you make them feel humiliated or embarrassed, the stronger their tactics would become.


"They need to find out how small their numbers and their outreach is."

You are again wrong here. They are the voice of the silent majority of Karnataka. Even if a few of the goons get arrested, there would be several more new ones to take their place.

"If the world converges and makes it known then the impact will be greater."

You are a dreamer, aren't you? What "world" are you taking about? Your Facebook friends? The Kannadigas would probably laugh at this.

Your arguments sound so much like Bush's "you are either with us or against us". Shit happens all over the world in one form or the other. In the US, it is carjackings and drive-by shootings. And a few such incidents get overblown by the media. In Chennai, "eve-teasing" had been around for as long as I remember. But some 20 years later, the sky hasn't exactly fallen over there. Like they say, this too shall pass.

We in India are dealing with a general law and order breakdown which has been there for several years in one form or the other. We need to reform and empower the law enforcement to prevent "all" instances of law breaking. This has to be done in a politically and culturally neutral manner. Instead your suggestions smack of condescension and disdain for locals.

#11
Aaman
URL
February 27, 2009
01:29 PM

Thanks for this important piece, Aditi. This is partly the reason Desicritics exists - so soldier on.

Anyone wants to know why it is important to record & chronicle, note the name Max Domarus, google him, wiki him, read him.

#12
Aditi N
February 27, 2009
01:42 PM

Dee, Roshan, SS, SD: I might be doing a follow-up post regarding some ideas I have. I sincerely thank you for your support. Please don't let people's pessimism and criticism get to you. All movements start out small and on some platform, no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem at the very begining. I do hope more people join us and make sure that this spirit does not die out. Please spread the word. I will email some of you with a few ideas.


Ledzius, kerty: I don't really want a debate with you here. I am already familiar with most of your views through previous exchanges. Exchanging words with you won't amount to anything since you guys are as sold on your ideas as I am on mine aned convincing you or changing your mind is not my goal at all. The need of the current time is not just words on a thread but action as well. But thanks for sharing your views anyways. It just reminds all of us of the many challenges and dissenters we face. So you might think you are being the devils' advocate here but you may in fact be helping the cause with your early criticism. Criticism always improves the quality of thought that goes into any process...and who knows may even fuel determination. And I want you to know that I appreciate that as well.

#13
kerty
February 27, 2009
01:44 PM

SD

"Every individual has their own way of life, religion, beliefs, culture etc and have the right to follow those."

Way of life, religion, belief, culture are group-centric not individual-centric. Their basic unit is family, not individual. Individual is integrated to them thru culture of relationships and duties. Rights-based Individualism seeks to atomize the individual from them thu opposite movement - by negating and liberating from relationships, duties, way of life, religion, beliefs, culture etc. You may call it a freedom movement, but it is essentially a movement to atomize, marginalize and colonize society for various ideologies of statism and globalism.

"All those years ago the British got to decide what your way of life, culture and religion got to be and now a few bullies do? How is it any different?"

India is still ruled by western ideologies. British people have left. But their ideologies never left India. Having captured Indian statism, these ideologies are now on a crusade to capture India's remaining civilizational spheres and institutions. You may call it freedom movement or whatever. One may cloth Ravana as Sadhu, but he is still out to colonize Sita Mata.

"If people cannot feel safe in a free country then what use is such freedom?"

Society has to take away freedoms and rights that harm other people, that harm common good, that harm its well-being and existence. If state fails to do it, Society will find other ways to attend to it.

#14
Aditi N
February 27, 2009
02:00 PM

Dee, Roshan, SS, SD: I might be doing a follow-up post regarding some ideas I have. I sincerely thank you for your support. Please don't let people's pessimism and criticism get to you. All movements start out small and on some platform, no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem at the very begining. I do hope more people join us and make sure that this spirit does not die out. Please spread the word. I will email some of you with a few ideas.


Ledzius, kerty: I don't really want a debate with you here. I am already familiar with most of your views through previous exchanges. Exchanging words with you won't amount to anything since you guys are as sold on your ideas as I am on mine aned convincing you or changing your mind is not my goal at all. The need of the current time is not just words on a thread but action as well. But thanks for sharing your views anyways. It just reminds all of us of the many challenges and dissenters we face. So you might think you are being the devils' advocate here but you may in fact be helping the cause with your early criticism. Criticism always improves the quality of thought that goes into any process...and who knows may even fuel determination. And I want you to know that I appreciate that as well.

#15
Morris
February 27, 2009
02:29 PM

Let me say at the outset my understnading may not be right. You folks who are learned can correct me.

But I thought Hinduism and Indian culture is dynamic. Had it not been so, it would not have withstood invasions from outside and struggle within. So what some people wish to observe Valentine day. They are not going to be less Indian or Hindu because of that. And because of that Diwali is not going to disappear. Hindu culture and religion is going to thrive not because of these guardians, it is inspite them. Because they keep looking at the past and want to freeze in time. And those who wish to freeze in time will freeze and die. It is not western and eastern any more. A new culture is emerging, a world culture. And you want to be a participant, contiribute and receive. The entire world is your playground. If you wish your culture to have impact on others(and why not) then you must be open to the rest of the world. It is globalisation of culture and perhaps even religion in time to come.

Once I was listening to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Some one asked him him about going to a church and adopting a hindu name. He down played both of those issues. To my recollection he neither encouraged nor discouraged. One is free to do what one wants to do. That is the strengh of the religion and culture. To him those were not relevant issues so long as they are willing to follow his teaching.

#16
GP
February 27, 2009
02:33 PM

Jai Ho! Awesome article Aditi.

#17
temporal
URL
February 27, 2009
02:33 PM

adi:

every lil bit helps

elections are round the corner...think of supporting a slate that would promise action

sashi tharoor was seeking a seat from the south...wonder whatever happened to him

also last time around there were some IIT fellows who were going to launch a partyor movement...wonder what happened there

#18
kerty
February 27, 2009
03:09 PM

T #16

Last election was fought on India shining vs Aam Adami. Against the backdrop of Slumdogs and economic meltdown, neither incredible India nor Aam Adami can work their magic at ballot box. Can Pub power or Youth power do it? Rahul Gandhi as icon of youth power? Well, bizarrely implausible as it may sound, but it might work, considering that NDA too is riding on empty, without its allies and usual its ideological issues. But than it might also land NDA a potent issue it badly needs - cultural nationalism. BJP has already hinted to revive the debate on cultural nationalism thru Ayodhya issue, but BJP is still in double-minds. Both UPA and NDA are holding their trump cards close to their chest, and do not want to play them as yet. In their Pahele Aap, Nahi Pahele Aap routine, they might miss the elections, and Mayawati might pull an upset. In that case, country might actually get real outcast Dalit power rather than a counterfeit one. That ought to mainstream lots of things that remain as outcast on cultural landscape.

#19
Daddy_Warbucks
February 27, 2009
03:17 PM

Since they are the movers and shakers in the public realm(along with patrairchy), feminists get the society they deserve. Let them wallow in misery(which is of their own making).

We should get independence from the politicians and their chamchas who indulge in false flag operations like in Mangalore and Bangalore.

It is fun to watch patriarchs and feminists engage in fist fight. They are both full of shit and deserve each other. Just leave rest of us alone. We have already been screwed before.

Go for each other jugular, fellers! Meanwhile, we'll place our bets.

"Look at me, I'm fat, I'm black, I can't dance, and I've got two gay fathers. [. . .]. I learned a long time ago that there's no sense in getting all riled up every time a bunch of idiots give you a hard time. In the end, the universe tends to unfold as it should."

--Tarik in 'Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle .'

#20
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
February 27, 2009
03:39 PM

Dear Kerty,

I have a few questions for you. Could you please define from your view point, what is Indian culture? Because you are talking about a community's cultural needs overriding those of an individual, how do we manage this all in a real situation: take an apartment community in Bangalore. In it you will find people from all over India and perhaps even some foreigners. In such an environment, which culture do these people adapt? Should they following Kannadiga culture because they live in Karnataka? Or adapt the majority culture such as Tamil (if that's the case). What do they do once they step out of the community?

Following the same logic, should all Indians living in the US immediately adapt the US culture, whatever that might be? Some stereotypical examples: allowing your kids to date, say as early as 13, kicking out your kids as soon as they are 18 etc. (For PC community on DC, let me state, these are just examples, I don't mean everybody in the US does that, or that there is even a fixed culture in the US).

What you are trying to do is to ghettoize Indians, whereas India has always opposed it. It has never happened in India and we are not about to begin. These are just anomalies that arise from time to time. I am sure it too will die out, and our true cosmopolitan culture will eventually win.

Regards,

Ravi

#21
Ravi Kulkarni
February 27, 2009
03:58 PM

Dear Aditi,

Great and timely article. I am with you.

Regards,

Ravi

#22
kerty
February 27, 2009
05:34 PM

Ravi

Cosmopolitan culture creates a melting pot, where group cultures and group identities wither way. So in a way, it is an antithesis of culture, as no culture or identity can survive in it. In India, while cosmopolitan culture has existed side by side with local cultures found in rest of India, cosmopolitan culture had largely remained cocktail of local cultures brewed in India, and it did not pose any existential threats. Now a days, cosmopolitanism is largely western in orientation, and it is projected to the rest of India, creating existential crisis for local communities and non-cosmopolitan areas around India. India has nurtured diversity and plurality in all spheres, across length and breadth of India, and it is lived locally among millions of small localities and communities - and that mosaic is what is collectively referred as Indian culture - and that is what is facing existential crisis in communities across India, why issue of cultural nationalism resonates with people and why it is taken up by people to the political arena.

#23
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
February 27, 2009
06:56 PM

Dear Kerty,

I don't agree with your hypothesis. There is no support for rowdy behavior among the so-called silent majority. Indians are very tolerant of different cultures by nature and there is no evidence that this kind of phenomenon is supported by a lot of people. In my opinion, this is an ideological battle being waged by people who want to capture power, just as they do in this country. There is a small percentage of the population that is extremist in any country and that segment is often the most vocal, violent and demanding. Just look at Rush Limbaugh and his followers in this country.

I think the reason these people get any support at all, it is because morally we are very cowardly. That's how Muslim invaders could take over large parts of India and as did the British. Whenever we see an injustice, the typical response is to turn your face away so that you don't have face the ugliness of human nature. Seldom we see the victims getting any support in the public places. Even police can afford to be rude and ruthless precisely because of this. I have first hand experience with such things. I have taken on police officers in public places, when they are challenged for their rudeness they are often clueless as to how to handle such situations. It does not have to be that way. We are educated and places like Bangalore are full of people like us.

Regards,

Ravi Kulkarni

#24
kerty
February 27, 2009
09:34 PM

Ravi

"There is no support for rowdy behavior among the so-called silent majority."

There is no support for riots either. But they do happen fairly regularly. One can't gauge support or lack of support based on how many people actually participate in it, but how people choose to react to it or not react to it. Just as people can choose to react negatively to it, people can also choose not to react negatively to it. The backlash from silent majority can prevent stern negative reaction.

"this is an ideological battle being waged by people who want to capture power"

Yes, It is by the both sides on the ideological divide.

"There is a small percentage of the population that is extremist in any country and that segment is often the most vocal, violent and demanding. Just look at Rush Limbaugh and his followers in this country."

All ideologies, political factions, revolutions, upheavals, winds of change, trend-makers are always led by small band of commited die-hards. And it is not necessary that people agree with them. But the will of those few, the power of their ideas is so strong that people eventually end up falling in line. Majority always follow a tiny minority. So there is a hope for Sobha's Sita Sena to pull it off.

Rush Limbaugh enjoys immense power among conservatives and GOP. His ideas have power, weather one agrees with him or not. If you have to name top 5 influential conservatives in the whole world, he would be in that list. I would not trivialize him as a lunatic fringe.

"I think the reason these people get any support at all, it is because morally we are very cowardly. That's how Muslim invaders could take over large parts of India and as did the British."

Our cowardice rests in not fighting, surrendering before fighting, attacking those who choose to defend, rolling red carpet, acting as running dogs, hunting with fox and running with hare. Shivaji was scoffed as rowdy too by his own countrymen.

"It does not have to be that way. We are educated and places like Bangalore are full of people like us."

Educated ones make good debaters and cynics. But they are the first one to seek comfort zones, run for shelters at the first sign of trouble and hanker for green pastures anywhere they can find. They are allergic to public service, allergic to political field, allergic to standing in lines for voting. That would be majority of them. Their priorities in life are different. Issues of Naach-Gaana-Khaana-mauj-maza-career would get their attention but it does not translate into any political impact.



#25
Aditi N
February 27, 2009
10:13 PM

Ravi: Can I make a suggestion? Please try not to get into a debate with kerty. To put it kindly he is set on his views and will provide a lengthy counter-arguement no matter what it is you say.

I greatly appreciate your support and hope that together the open-minded ones among us can come up with a credible, concrete solution for the fear that is plaguing our society.

I am really hoping for this thread to be a sounding board for ideas about what we can do. I want to hear back from people about the various ways in which we can all contribute towards a movement even if we are not physically present in India.

#26
kerty
February 27, 2009
10:41 PM

Aditi

Is telling other posters not to engage in a debate part of this new movement you are organizing? I wish you good luck avoiding the debates and arguments in the real world outside the blogpsphere.

#27
Aditi N
February 27, 2009
11:53 PM

kerty: the movement likely won't be about convincing people to change their mind. It is about letting people know that we will not be bullied into changing ours.

Thanks for the wishes.

#28
ACDC
February 28, 2009
10:21 AM

Kerty,
I agree with your posts - keep it up.

#29
kaffir
February 28, 2009
05:01 PM

Aditi, in my opinion, "kerty" actually brings up some relevant points for consideration (whether one agrees with them or not is a different issue) and prevents this blog from becoming a cliquish echo chamber.

#30
Aditi N
February 28, 2009
05:54 PM

kaffir: I don't agree or disagree with kerty and neither do I dismiss his views as irrelevant...I just don't see any reason to debate with him. And I don't say this out of any malice. I respect conflicting views. I always have. I just simply believe that we can argue and disagree and beat a debate to death but our existing biases, prejudices and mindsets cannot be changed over a blog. From kerty's previous comments on other threads I have a fair idea of his views. I have just accepted that our upbringing, our own experiences and environments make us who we are. This is why people in society too need to learn to respect differences.

I will however state that in my opinion this website is far from being a cliquish echo chamber and we editors painstakingly ensure that no matter how controversial, frustrating or hard-to-manage a thread gets we still encourage the harshest of critiques and the most intense of debates. And for this we expect no reward or accolades. We do it because for some reason a like-minded group of us prefer freedom of speech, diverse opinions and varied forms of expression even if some of those offend us, upset us or go completely against our own personal views. I cannot help wishing that our society too would reflect more of this spirit of acceptance. I will never understand why that is such an unrealistic expectation.

That being said, we as human beings are always happier and more content when we find people who agree with us on some important issues like politics, culture, religion, values etc. That is just human nature. I must admit, that being human, I am no different. :)

Thanks for your comment.

#31
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
February 28, 2009
06:58 PM

Dear Aditi,

I agree with Kaffir that Kerty brings a different view to our discussion. He is often illogical or plain wrong, but that's just my view point. I think we need to engage the likes of Kerty even if we don't agree with them, because that's what a true democracy is all about. It is an individual choice of course, and you may choose to ignore him as well.

We should debate issues, not individuals or personalities. I can't take sides, for or against, with a topic just because Kerty brought it up. This does not happen in our society whether here in the US or in India. People become cliquish and ideological and behave in predictable robot-like way which is sad.

I do see a pattern in Kerty's arguments and sometimes it feels futile to argue with him. But he does raise interesting points. Enough about Kerty...

Ravi

#32
sm
February 28, 2009
07:44 PM

I don't really have any support for these self-styled protectors of cultures and their actions -- but I really thought, while reading your opening paragraph, that the threat to freedom you were talking about were the multiple and recurring terrorist attacks all over India, and the complacency of the government toward them. I'm sorry but I stopped reading once I realized what you were really writing about. I didn't have any disagreement with your position, nor do I see anyone in India agreeing with or supporting these groups (except other people within the groups). But as a threat to Indian freedom, I think unchecked and ignored terrorism is a far bigger and more dangerous issue.

#33
Aditi N
February 28, 2009
07:51 PM

Ravi:

"We should debate issues, not individuals or personalities. I can't take sides, for or against, with a topic just because Kerty brought it up"

Fair enough. :) Go on then. Hope it takes the discussion somewhere.

#34
Seema
February 28, 2009
08:02 PM

#32: "But as a threat to Indian freedom, I think unchecked and ignored terrorism is a far bigger and more dangerous issue"

True.

Terrorism is defined as acts that induce fear or terror into society as a coercion tactic. Internal acts of violence that curb freedom and step on people's rights would also qualify as terrorism.

Besides I think a populace is more vulnerable to much larger acts of terrorism by international entities when it stands divided over such key fundamental issues.

"I'm sorry but I stopped reading once I realized what you were really writing about"

Sad. You should have read on. The last paragraph would've probably addressed your nonchalance about this issue.

#35
ACDC
March 1, 2009
07:30 AM

Aditi,

I have a couple of comments and I hope you will address them:

1. What does Valentine's Day have to do with International Women's Day? The former is a public display of what should be a private affair (sorry for the pun), and a crass way of going about it to boot. The latter is about social and economic justice. Why are you mixing the two?

2. I am amazed and amused at your bile and ire at the "Chaddhiwallahs" - with the massive problems India faces (Islamic terrorism, environmental degradation, the naxalite movement, etc) is this the best cause to fight for?

As the saying goes, you have to pick your fights. I think there are much better fights to pick.

#36
Vivek Bharat
March 1, 2009
08:30 AM

Aditi:
Well written article with the right logic. However I feel that our energies must be expended on fighting the real battles that threaten our freedom: Terrorism and naxal violence that have actually killed people and instilled genuine fear in our people:the real danger to freedom in post independent India.
While I do agree that this issue of personal freedom must be addressed but the space,time and importnace imparted to it far exceeds its significance.We as a nation suffer from misplaced priorities-the bane of our present predicament.

#37
Sumanth
March 1, 2009
08:39 AM

I fought for 5 years against violation of fundamental rights of citizens in India including Bangalore.

I wrote about massive extortion, abuse and torture by police. I wrote that judiciary is dysfunctional, bureaucracy is incompetent and politicians are insensitive. I wrote, soon it can engulf all sections of society. I also said, there will be nothing called rule of law, if this continues.

For most people these were non-issues for last 5 years. They often wondered how can extortionist police or dysfunctional judiciary can ever impact me or my life? There are others, who opposed me vehemently when I called India a banana republic.

Even today, many foolishly consider that the present situation is due to Sri Ram Sena or the current BJP govt in Bangalore. The same people forget that Jasmin Patheja started Blank Noise project in Bangalore only more than 5 years ago to fight against street harassment and attacks on women. It was the Dharam Singh's Congress Govt which was in power then.

It would be a grave mistake to play into the hands of politicians and blame one set of politicians. The problem exists in everywhere irrespective of which political party is in power. It is also dangerous to isolate Bangalore in this issue. Are Delhi or Hyd different in any way? Tomorrow, BJP Govt in Karnataka can swoop in and arrest some 50 guys at random and make big claims to shut down the whole story.

Believe me,

1) Police is not in a position to do anything.
They have no competency or even training to stop this kind of violence.

2) For judiciary it is a non-issue.

3) One set of politicians will initially use this issue for coming Lok Sabha elections. They will also claim crime against women in Karnataka is increasing. The other set of politicians will soon claim that it is a smear campaign by "arrogant" north Indians on Kannadigas. The national media will promote first set of politicians. The local kannada media will support the second set.

--------
Without police reforms, judicial reforms and cleaning of bureaucracy, nothing will get achieved.

See the Forest, not Trees.

Did you all forgot what happened in Bangalore, when actor Dr.Raj Kumar was kidnapped by Veerappan? Did you forget the violent scenes a few years after when Raj Kumar died?

The current hype is made only keeping elections in mind. Just the way, the word "pogrom" was used against Modi in Gujarat, now some want to convert Yedi into another Modi using the word "taliban". In the end, Modi is still there and Yedi will rule for 3 terms like Modi.

The problems are deep rooted. Random reactions will not work.




#38
Aditi N
March 1, 2009
12:45 PM

Are we Indians too divided to be fighting anything at all?

I hope that some of you realize that as a united movement of citizens, youths and visionaries it is possible for a nation to tackle several different problems that may seem divergent but are consequences of the same dysfunctional systems: failure of law enforcement, politicization of religion, widespread corruption and lack of constitutional reform. All these have resulted in the different issues India is facing at the moment, be it religious riots that erupt, terrorist activity that goes unchecked, assaults on women, hate crimes, unequality of laws and even the widespread violence of the naxalite movement.

In a nation where there is utter lawlessness and the officials who are paid by our taxes are not doing anything at all to protect our rights and freedom, shouldn't we as citizens be coming together to address all of these issues instead of only the one that we personally think is the worst ailment plaguing our nation?

I refuse to believe that the strength, intelligence and effort of a billion people is inadequate in fighting for multiple issues at a time.

Progress has to be multi-faceted. One cannot leave one section of society behind while fighting for another. You cannot fight to stall naxalite violence but be nonchalant about violence against women or riots in the name of religion. If you go that route, history is witness that you will be taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back and the end of the next decade our children will be left with the same amount of work as us.

In all cases our law enforcement and our democratic government is failing abysmally to protect our rights, our freedom and our safety. They need to hear a united voice that protests against their apathy and impotency.

We don't need one protest, or one fight...we need a revolution. We need a billion voices in order to be heard.

Read the last few sentences of my article. We all need to be worried, very very worried that if we keep squabbling among ourselves about what the bigger fight is, a day will come when it is our turn to charge forth and we will find ourselves alone...because we did not stand up or fight for all those others who could've used our help then and who would've helped us in our own struggles now.

It may be a cliche but it is true: United we stand, divided we fall.

#39
Sumanth
March 1, 2009
02:58 PM

How can people fight for freedom, when all they know is working hard and partying hard in stinking cities?

Social change is complex. It is complete rocket science just like launching a satellite and guiding it into an orbit. Simple actions can result is strange side effects, which may out grow the problem itself.

We already had more than enough problems in terms of poverty, disease, unplanned cities, terrorism, dowry, female foeticide, honour killing and now we have couple of more getting added every year.

If we do not act to arrest the decay and start rebuilding, then who else will?

The masters of the house are working hard and partying hard, while the servants are selling all the material in the house.

For us, police, judges and bureaucrats are not our servants, but they are our masters.

Whatever positive stuff we had in our society, we want to destroy that as well listening to the advice from vested interests from foreign countries.

Can a individualists make good team players? To fight any battle, team work, leadership and sacrifices are needed.

People have to make a choice between comfortable life and a sustain fight to rebuild the society?

The real choices are always tough to choose.

It is a good sign to get worried once in a while.

#40
kaffir
March 1, 2009
04:16 PM

Aditi, when people look at the world through ideologies and not only dismiss the views of other ideologies, but consider them inimical instead of searching for common ground, how is unity possible?

When people demonize political parties (BJP, Congress) for certain actions while excusing/ignoring the same actions when done by their party, what unity can be there?

When people are too willing to see the humanity across the border, but not the humanity of fellow-Indians, that's not a basis for unity.

When a small western-centric minority thinks it knows all about Hinduism from what Dawkins wrote, and imposes that view on the majority or scorns the majority, how will that lead to unity?

When nationalism is considered a dirty word, on what basis will there be unity?

Just talking about change or imposing it - which leads to unnecessary friction and props up the very parties one doesn't want to see in power - is not enough, how that change comes about matters too. This is an area where the so-called liberals/progressives could introspect, as their ideological framework necessitates an "opponent" or an "enemy" which needs to be defeated.

Besides, your timing for this unity call is a little off - it's election time and all kinds of identities will get sharply delineated and the differences focused on, instead of unity. Past grievances will be brought out, used and analyzed to death. ("Ooh, you called me a feminazi", "Why did you mention Modi?", "They supported pink chaddi", "They criticized pink chaddi" and so on.)

How many of your past grievances are you willing to give up and let go for unity?

#41
ACDC
March 1, 2009
05:03 PM

Kaffir, very well said.

Aditi, I'm sorry but your reasoning does not seem well founded. If you had called people to arms over dowry, the caste system, reverse-discrimination, corruption, discrimination against Hindus, Islamic fundamentalism, etc (issues that truly affect the whole of India, not just a select jet-set) it would have sounded genuine. As such, it seems you are only getting worked up since it affects your Western oriented lifestyle of wearing jeans, going to pubs, etc and appears hypocritical and self-serving.

#42
Aditi N
March 1, 2009
05:06 PM

kaffir: A majority of people in India have children & families. I believe the cause of safety can bring everybody together. To put it simply, people are weary of violence. In every city if you were to carry out a survey and ask what the majority wants from its system, you will see people of all religions, political affiliations and backgrounds expressing a need for peace, law and order, a need to feel protected by law enforcement. One doesn't have to be united on political, religious or even idealogical fronts in order to strive for society that yields us this basic need. They just have to be united in terms of wanting enough this basic necessity of a safe, world in which their children, wives, sisters, brothers, husbands, mothers and friends can survive without feeling constantly fearful and threatened. It is simpler than we make it out to be. We politicize every movement and every philosophy when citizen revolutions do not have to be political. They can be social and start at a community or institutional level. And to expect unity at such a small organizational level in a country of a billion is not an over-expectation or exaggerated demand, I think.

One doesn't have to give up or fore go their own pet grievances in order to strive for a common one.

#43
Aditi N
March 1, 2009
05:12 PM

ACDC: Actually, my "Western oriented lifestyle" is safe in the US because here if I get attacked for wearing a salwar kameez I can call 911 and expect the police to arrive and be on my side when hooligans are assaulting me.

#44
SD
March 1, 2009
05:28 PM

ACDC "As such, it seems you are only getting worked up since it affects your Western oriented lifestyle of wearing jeans, going to pubs, etc and appears hypocritical and self-serving"

Does Indian law enforcement provide protection only to people of a certain life-style? Anybody else who wants to reserve their right to way-of-life, culture, religion should expect the worst?

Or maybe you are commenting on the author's lifestyle because you don't have any rational arguments to make. I am sorry to say it is you who lose credibility when you make personal comments instead of critiquing strategies proposed in the article.

#45
KK
March 2, 2009
02:38 AM

"and even the widespread violence of the naxalite movement."

Why not send the naxalites some red chaddies?

#46
SD
March 2, 2009
09:15 AM

Have some of you guys even read the article? Or do you just see a mention of Pink Chaddis and then comment?

#47
Kalugu
URL
March 2, 2009
12:33 PM

Nice article. We had a discussion about freedom of women and pub culture at a family party and asked for the women to share their comments on the topic. Most women (including my wife) indicated that "going to pub" should be the decision of the women themselves and the decision cannot be forced by men. I think we need to engage is such conversations with our family members first.

#48
ajay
March 2, 2009
09:46 PM

The article has an aggressive feel to it which I liked. But Aditi N, you might be missing the point on a few fronts here. Some of the women who have been attacked in Bangalore recently were kannada speakers and not all were clad in western clothes. The attackers themselves were in flashy jeans-tshirt. It is not about language, culture or being un-educated that is causing this friction.
The underlying problem is the increasing socio-economic differences in our urban society. The economically challenged are brainwashed into believing that you are the cause for their plight. 'You' can be an 'outsider', 'pizza lover' or a jeans clad hipster. 'You' can be conveniently blamed with rising pollution, traffic, prices, etc.
Nothing will change until the socio-economic disparity which is at its worst ever level in free India is addressed.

#49
Ledzius
March 2, 2009
11:36 PM

I hate the expression "party hard". It is almost insulting to suggest that this should be the ideal to be achieved and those who don't do this are losers.

This "party hard" culture has resulted in excesses and a bad lifestyle which goes hand in hand with increased crime against women, drugs, bad health and so on. Punjabis in Delhi who follow this are derided as puppies.

South Indians are more docile and sensible and don't believe that they should be dancing till the middle of the night every day after coming back from work. This makes more sense since we are a sleep deprived society to begin with, and with the long hours at work, having dinner and going to bed at sensible times is a good practice.

So basically we are seeing a N Indian agenda being shoved down the throats of Kannadigas. Obviously there is going to be resentment.


#50
Aditi N
March 2, 2009
11:53 PM

I am considered half-Karnataka, half-Goan and not at all N.Indian....but definitely LOVE parties and the only thing that deprives me of sleep sometimes is prejudiced assholes who cannot make a point without being shameless bigots and come across as cowards safe-guarding their crude, narrow-minded, provincialism behind a cyber-pseudonym.

As a South Indian I can list quite a few "docile and sensible" ways to express "resentment". Verbal venting, as you can see in my comment is one way. Attacking women in jeans isn't a form of resentment...it is an open act of aggression. So much for docility!

#51
Ledzius
March 3, 2009
12:06 AM

Oh, so you judge me because I have a cyber-pseudonym? So do you extend this courtesy to commonsense and temporal as well? Or is it all agenda-based?

#52
Deepti Lamba
URL
March 3, 2009
12:11 AM

Aditi, lot of my Bangalorean friends are complete party animals and been so since their college days. I still get to hear about the good old days when the city had a safe night life. They are all South Indians.

Just like not all Punjabies are party animals not all Kannadigas are docile home birds;)

#53
Ledzius
March 3, 2009
12:17 AM

[Edited: Irrelevant to thread, Bigotry]

#54
Aditi N
March 3, 2009
12:23 AM

Let me give you a perspective: At Halloween people wear masks. Would that be comparable to the Klu Klux klan wearing their white masks to hide their identities? The KKK does it so that people do not recognize them as they go about revealing their hateful prejudices in a world when people are evolving and looking beyond these differences for the greater good. So to answer your question: YES it is "agenda-based"....especially if the pseudonym itself is agenda-based.

You have on this forum displayed the kind of bigotry and racism repeatedly that I would never even think of expecting from temporal. And if commonsense were to say the things you do I would "extend this courtesy" to him as well.

This is not the first time you have made such a divisive comment. You have in the past used racist terms and bared plenty shallow biases towards people of a certain region or community. You do not bring anything to a discussion except your blind, unyielding prejudice and therefore, I have nothing to say to you.

#55
Citizen
March 3, 2009
02:29 AM

[blathering]

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