Friday, November 28, 2008

Newspaper ad - the polity making the most of the terror strike

This is a front page ad printed in the Hindustan Times Delhi edition yesterday.

I have nothing personally against the BJP. I am sure we could probably expect something similar from the Congress if the BJP were in power. Nonetheless, this ad is troubling. Can they not have waited till the situation normalized in Bombay?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Letter to a terrorist

I do not know whether you have a bigger cause you are fighting for. Maybe you do. I do not want to know about how just your cause is. All I can tell you is that, even if there was a small group of people who wanted a dialogue with you, who wanted to understand your problems and try to solve them in a sane manner, the means you have taken to attain victory has totally derided the little amount of respect that the people affected by these acts of terror may have had for your cause. I do not know whether you achieved what you intended to do with the attack; I believe instead of winning over the people, you have actually made them move even further away from you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A new dawn

‘Today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.’ - The Dalai Lama

Monday, November 10, 2008

Religious conversions in India

One of the first pieces of news about India which I received on reaching Edinburgh was about the communal tensions in the Kandhamal district of Orissa. Similar cases, where churches were burnt and Christians ill-treated, in Mangalore and some other parts of Karnataka followed suit. It is only when these occurred, did I try to find out about the magnitude of the problem we are dealing with. I have enlisted here some of the observations I made through articles/ web pages I read and discussions I had on the issue.

There is no doubt that the atrocities that have been committed on the Christian converts in these places in the last month or so can not be justified. Indians have the best example of non-violence being used as a mode of struggle, which proved to be more of a success than other violent means people have adopted since then. Why forget what history has taught us?

On the contentious matter of conversions, the first question that can be raised is about ethics. Are the means adopted by Christian missionaries to coax people to convert ethical? There are two sides to this question. These missionaries live with and try to propagate the belief that it is only Christians who reach Heaven and that they have been assigned the duty of helping people at large to reach there. Through the conversion activities they are involved in, they believe they are answering their true calling and performing their duty. They believe that whatever the means they use ( like providing monetary benefits, education, jobs etc to the converts) to induce conversions, the end justifies the means. On the other hand, if their intention was to do good alone (through charitable activities), they could easily provide the destitute with these economic benefits without asking them to convert. That would be the idealist's way to make sure that the destitute, who were not taken care of by the government (and the people who are represented by the governments) are allowed on to the first rung of the ladder of economic development.

Another fact that caught my attention was that most of the converts were 'dalits' (untouchables). I thought this to be a good enough reason for a person to convert. M y argument was that these people, when were Hindus, may have had faced instances when they were discriminated against, which instigated thoughts about converting. One of my friends, who has worked with tribals in Jharkand, informed me that the term 'dalit' was being used to label almost every tribal group in India by the media. He showed me instances where tribals (even though they were classified as Hindus), followed completely different rituals (eg. they considered trees/ plants sacred). There is a distinct possibility that the tribals who have been converted in Orissa and some other parts of India, were such groups. Although I say this, I do not discredit the caste based oppression many of the 'dalits', or tribals for that matter, are still facing in many parts of India.

Next, my friend gave me his reasons as to why he was against these conversions. He said that through these conversions, these tribes were losing their culture. He added that when everywhere in the world various organizations have been trying to preserve tribes and their traditions, under the name of religious conversions we were directly causing the 'extinction' of such tribes and their traditions. I respect my friends views on the matter of protecting tribes and their values, but I fail to see the same motive in the opposition shown by some parts of the Hindu right wing groups. If the subject of protecting the culture of these tribes is important, why is it that these right wing groups bring about this matter only when the situation at hand is grave?

What can cause a person to change their inclination (be it political or religious in this case)? Isn't it dissatisfaction? If the converts before they turn to Christianity were fully content with the kind of lives they were leading, would they ever convert for material benefits? I do not think so. So what is it that is not working right? These tribes surely would be having desires. They would love to have health care, would love to have their children educated, which promises jobs for them when they grow older. Why isn't the government trying to provide these tribes with what they need, so that they remain rooted in their rich tradition. One would also need to figure out whether these tribes would keep up with their tradition once economically developed (as Christians or Hindus)?

I know I have not provided any one who has read this write up with answers. In fact there are more questions to which solutions need to be found. I hope I have helped you to see the problem at hand in a different light. I would like to thank my friends Srinivasan C J and Udit Kumar who helped me gain a different perspective on the issue.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The cure

I have my eyes closed,

and I see you in tears.

You have wrinkled up your face

in sadness or fear.

I hear the room's silence interspersed

by your repressed whimper.

I move my fingers to your face,

taking them softly from your temples,

caressing your cheek,

till they reach your chin;

undoing at every instant

the wrinkles that blemish your face.

You begin to feel at ease,

resting your head on my shoulder.

I keep stroking your hair,

till you fall into a peaceful slumber.