This post can be related to the current Trump saga, but is an age old story that can apply anywhere.
Kokras chhai kuni zang (the rooster has one leg) is a common saying in Kashmiri language, my mother tongue. This fallacious statement is symbolic of someone making a wrong claim and sticking with it, no matter what the evidence says. So, when Trump says he won the US presidential election in 2020, you can equate that to “kokras chhai kuni zang“.
There are a couple of little stories that incorporate the above saying, and I am telling one of them here.
A boy, let’s call him Johnny, who is a bit of a bully, returns home from school and tells his mother, “Mom, I made a bet with Jack, and I am going to win.”
Mother: “What was the bet about, Johnny?”
“Jack said a rooster has two legs. I said it has only one.”
“But you are wrong. You are going to lose. A rooster does have two legs.”
“How am I going to lose? I am never going to agree, no matter what he says.”
When most Trump supporters, and some non-supporters, argue that just like 2016, all polls are fake news and Trump is going to win “bigly” again, they forget to look at one simple fact — Trump’s victory in 2016 was almost a fluke. If 40,000 voters in a country of 325 million people had changed their mind, he would have lost the election.
Let’s get down to brass tacks. The three states where Trump’s victory margins were the lowest were Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (0.22%, 0.72%, and 0.76% of total vote respectively). This resulted in a switch of 46 electoral votes, without which Trump would have had 258 electoral votes and would have lost the election. The total number of votes that made up the above-mentioned victory margins across three states was 77,744. This means that if a little over half of these voters had switched sides, we would have seen a completely different political landscape in the country. That is, Hillary Clinton would have been president.
Following are the raw numbers that make up the above calculations:
You can get the raw data from Federal Election Commission’s website yourself in the form of a spreadsheet by clicking here, and play with the numbers yourself.
Now what are your take aways from this data? Mine are as follows:
Is it possible for Trump to pull off a similar feat this year? It absolutely is. Can it be taken for granted? Absolutely not. Some people may think Trump has gained more supporters in these four years; others may think that those who wanted to give him a chance last time will not want to do so again. It all depends on how happy you are with what he did with the country.
Were the 2016 polls nowhere close to reality? The answer to that question is a mixed bag. If we look at Real Clear Politics’ poll of polls for 2016, the RCP average for these three states (MI, PA, WI) was +3.6, +2.1, and +6.5 in favor of Clinton. Even though two of those numbers turned out to be within the margin of error, it is hard to give a certificate of reliability to these polls. I would, however, not go so far as to agree that the polls were manipulated to look bad for Trump. One pollster who seems to have predicted Trump’s 2016 win was Republican pollster Robert Cahaly of Trafalgar Group, and he is sticking by Trump again in 2020.
The electoral college, in particular the winner-take-all rule of most states, messes up the results and in effect disenfranchises large groups of voters. When many electoral districts in rural NY and CA vote Republican, why should all their electors vote Democrat? And when many electoral districts in urban TX and FL vote Democrat, why should their electors vote Republican? Keep the electoral college, if you must, but split the electors according to vote percentage.
These numbers put into perspective how few people can swing the results of such a large and significant election. If the foreign efforts to impact the election were to be successful, they didn’t have to convince too many people.
US Midterm elections are on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 and these are very important elections for the country. Many of the readers of this blog may wonder what this election is about. What/who is/are being elected? What is the impact of this on Donald Trump? Why are these called midterms? If you have these questions, you have come to the right place. Let’s get down to it and discuss some terms related to the elections, particularly in comparison to the elections in India. Election Day
Unlike many other countries, US has a fixed Election Day every year — the first Tuesday after November 1. Almost any government election that needs to be held — be it at national level (President, Senator, Member of the House), state level (Governor, state legislators, etc), local level (school board members, sheriffs, mayors), or simply a referendum on one topic or another — is held on this day. Accordingly the ballot paper looks different for different jurisdictions depending upon what the electorate are asked to decide upon. So, let us see what is at stake in this election. Presidential Election
There is no Presidential election this year. Presidential elections are held every 4 years. Since this election is in the middle of the president’s term, this is called the midterm election. This is unlike other countries, where governments sometimes fall before their terms end and “midterm elections” are held. The US midterm elections have no direct impact on the president’s continuation in office, even though elections are being held to full lower house and one third of upper house of the federal legislature (US Congress). Contrary to the parliamentary system of democracy elsewhere in the world, the head of the government in the US (the President) is an independent entity from the legislature and does not need to enjoy the confidence of the legislature. Even if both houses of the legislature are won by the opposition, the President keeps his post. However, as is expected, his credibility, popularity, effectivity and capability to govern depend largely on getting support from the legislature. That is what makes this election very important for the current president and the administration. As a peek into recent history, the last President Obama enjoyed the confidence of the legislature only for the first two years of his 8 years in office. Midterm elections in 2010 gave the House and the Senate to the Republicans. House of Representatives
Elections to the House are held every 2 years (even numbered years) – so they are held in Presidential election years and midterms. This is the lower house (think Lok Sabha) with 435 members, with each state being represented by a number of members roughly based on its population. Currently, the majority (235 of 435) is held by Republican Party, the party that the President belongs to. Some polls indicate that the majority party may change to Democrats as a result of this election. Senate
Senators are elected for 6 year terms, with elections being held to roughly 1/3rd of seats every 2 years (even numbered years), coinciding with elections to the House of Representatives. Thus, the Senate (think Rajya Sabha in India) is a continuous house, with 1/3rd members getting re-elected or replaced every 2 years. The house has 100 members, 2 from each of the 50 states, irrespective of their population. Currently, the majority (51/100) in the Senate is also held by the Republican party. There is a good chance that the Republicans will keep that majority. Since elections to only 1/3rd of the seats are being held each time, the Senate is less vulnerable to changes due to political swings. State and Local Level Elections
In addition to the above federal (central) level elections, elections are also held on the same day to state level elections. For example, in my state Pennsylvania, the governor post is being filled this year, as are all seats to the lower house of the state legislature, and half of the seats to the upper house. State and Local level elections may also include filling posts like sheriffs, judges, commissioners, school board members, etc., depending on local and state laws applicable. Some state and local level elections are held in “off years”, i.e., odd numbered years, but still on the same day in November. Ballot Measures
In addition to choosing the representatives for National, State, and Local levels, voters may be asked to vote on a question. For example, should there be a requirement for genetically modified foods to be labeled such, should there be an extra tax on petrol to pay for roads, etc. There can be questions on gay rights, voting rights, etc. Ballot measures may be held any year.
So, all of these questions are asked on one day, in one ballot paper, which looks quite like an examination question paper. Here is a sample ballot paper from 2012 from a random constituency in the country, representing the variety of questions asked.
If this topic interests you, do come back for more on posts related to US elections and other similar topics.
— हिंदी में पढ़ें
This is a continuation from my yesterday’s article, in which I countered “Virtual President” Bill Whittle’s arguments against gun control. Here are my counter arguments against some more common anti-regulation arguments. 1. People kill people, guns don’t. Let us together examine the logical validity of this very common argument that come from gun advocates. Yes, of course. People kill people. Bad people kill people. But bad people without a gun are just bad people. With a gun they are murderers. A gun, by itself, is just an inanimate object. But it is the tool of choice that is used by people who want to kill other people. It is the most efficient and default choice. You can do your job of killing someone most efficiently using a gun. No contact needed; you can do your job from a distance, with very little skill. You can fire multiple shots. Success is guaranteed to a much larger extent. Faster the weapon, more the harm. The job gets done so quickly that the victim has no way to run or hide, most likely giving the murderer in most cases a chance to run. You say, guns are not the only way. Let’s address that now.
For that matter, even bombs and grenades don’t kill people, people kill people. Should even bombs be allowed in private hands? 2. Even cars can be used to kill people, you don’t ban them. Gun control activists say you can kill with a car, a knife, a hammer, etc. and it is impossible to ban or regulate them, so why are guns being singled out. Now, let us look at the comparison.
If some crazy person wants to use a car as his weapon, first of all he cannot go into a classroom with a car. He cannot go into any building, any playground, any theater. That limits his choice to the road, and makes many places intrinsically safe against this “murderous weapon”. Even on the road, once he begins his attack, it is much easier for the crowd to save itself by getting out of his way; just going on the sidewalk can save you, something you can’t do when faced with a gun-toting criminal. Yes, there will be some casualties, but nowhere as close to those possible if the attacker used guns. If you look at the list of vehicle ramming attacks on this page, you will see that the number of dead is much lower and the chances of injured people surviving is much higher.
Similarly, with knives and hammers, one has to have physical contact with the victim, one at a time, and the number of people an attacker can kill remains limited. It will be much easier to overpower and stop a knife wielding person than it will be a gun wielding person. In the often cited China knife attack, an anomaly rather than a rule, it took a group of eight terrorists in a coordinated attack to kill 31 people. Imagine what havoc they could have created, had they been armed with guns.
Another thing some people conveniently gloss over is that the only purpose of a gun is to kill, whereas automobiles, knives, hammers, are tools of convenience without which life is not possible. You may say the gun has other purposes (self defense, hunting, target shooting, etc.), and I am addressing those below. Also see my last article.
Last but not the least, if you really want to compare guns with automobiles, think of how much regulation is in force in use of automobiles. A new driver has to take a written test, a vision test, take safety classes, drive under a learner’s permit for 6 – 9 months, then take a driving test; only then is she allowed to drive an automobile. In addition of all that she is required to buy liability insurance, to cover for the possibility of her car hurting someone. Are you ready to apply similar rules to use of guns? I have heard an argument against this one too. “Driving is a privilege, gun owning is a right.” Well, rights come with responsibilities, and some restrictions; don’t they. 3. But I need it for my self defense and self preservation.
I also talked about it in my last article. It is a myth born out of paranoia that guns are a tool of self defense and self preservation. In any responsible home that needs to be defended, you will need to keep your guns locked away, most likely unloaded, just so that kids don’t get to them. That need for keeping the kids safe also renders the gun useless in an emergency. On the other hand, as documented on this website,
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 130,557 deaths in 2013 from unintentional injuries, the 4th ranking cause of death in 2013 overall. From 2005-2010, almost 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings.
Accidental gun deaths occur mainly in those under 25 years old. Over 1,300 victims of unintentional shootings for the period 2005–2010 were under 25 years of age. Adolescents are particularly susceptible to accidental shootings due to specific behavioral characteristics associated with adolescence, such as impulsivity, feelings of invincibility, and curiosity about firearms.
Miller, Azrael, and Hemenway reported in a 2001 study that regardless of age, people are significantly more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries when they live in states with more guns, relative to states with fewer guns. On average, states with the highest gun levels had nine times the rate of unintentional firearms deaths compared to states with the lowest gun levels.
A statistically significant association exists between gun availability and the rates of unintentional firearm deaths, homicides, and suicides. In the United States, over 1.69 million kids age 18 and under are living in households with loaded and unlocked firearms, setting the scene for possible tragedy if firearms are not locked and stored properly. A study from 1991-2000 showed that twice as many people died from unintentional firearm injuries in states in the U.S. where firearm owners were more likely to store their firearms loaded.
Now you decide if guns are a good tool for self preservation or self destruction. 4. It’s the culture, the video games, the movies, not guns.
The next excuse that is given by people who don’t want any blame to be placed on guns is to curse the perceived cultural changes in America. Supposedly violent video games and violent movies are numbing people’s minds against violence. Well, I personally am not a big fan of video games, so by all means go after them too. But still, I don’t think a clear link has been shown that indicates that a particular murderer was an avid video game player or a violent movie watcher. No evidence to support link between violent video games and behavior, says this research report from University of York researchers.
The complaint of kids being undisciplined is ages old. My personal opinion is that overall, a majority of children today are more morally grounded than previous generations. They are less likely to support hateful ideologies like racism, slavery, homophobia, and misogyny than their previous generations. There are some bad apples, as always, and what makes them put their evil designs into action are guns. So, keep them away from guns.
Then there are these memes circulated that we are not allowing God into schools, that is why these murders are happening. I don’t understand how an omnipotent and omnipresent God can be “pushed out” of schools, and how the all-compassionate can be so cruel as to punish innocent students, who had nothing to do with this.
There is so much more on this “culture” front. People are missing the ability to punish their kids. They want to arm the teachers with tasers and guns. The craziness just does not stop.
In order to keep a weird version of 2nd amendment unchecked, they want to kill the first amendment which separates religion from state and allows freedom of expression. 5. AR-15 is not an assault rifle.
Very often people will argue that we are unnecessarily targeting the AR-15 and “AR” does not even stand for Assault Rifle. I think there is a need to understand each other here. We, the ordinary non-gun-owners may not be fully knowledgeable about gun classifications, bore sizes, bullet types, attachments, etc. and most of us do not have a desire to get educated. What we are concerned is is the speed at which a gun or device discharges bullets. If a gun or a gun with an attachment is capable of discharging 45 bullets in one minute, making it easy for a killer to kill without reloading, then we feel it should not be required by people who need a gun for hunting or self defense. If there are other guns that can do this, those should be regulated too. 6. Bad guys will get guns anyway.
Another very common argument is that bad guys will get guns anyway, and by introducing gun regulation we are stripping law abiding citizens of guns. Well, nobody is proposing to strip law abiding citizens of guns. What we are proposing is that it should be harder for criminals and mentally ill people to get guns. Also, the argument that “bad guys will do bad things anyway, so we shouldn’t have regulation” is a very disingenuous argument. There are thousands of arguments against it. We can’t buy prescription medicines without a doctor’s prescription, but bad guys get them anyway, so should we do away with the requirement of a prescription? Murders are against the law but people kill anyway, so should we no longer make murders against the law.
If the law dissuades even one of ten attackers, that will mean many lives saved. 7. Good guy with a gun vs Bad guy with a gun
The final argument is that a good guy is needed to stop a bad guy with a gun. This is also usually proven to be a myth. Yes, in case of law enforcement officers whose job is to enforce law, it is true. But for the ordinary people, it is hard to be armed all the time with a gun ready to shoot. More often than not, the gun proposed to be used for self defense stays locked at home or in a car or in a holster when the situation happens.
The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week has left 17 students and faculty dead, 15 injured, and the whole country arguing on social media about gun control. I spent a lot of time myself this weekend arguing with people on Facebook, pushing the same arguments over and over. Now I decided to compile my arguments on commonsense gun control in one place, divided into two articles. The title of this article comes from the #WeCallBS hashtag inspired by Florida student Emma Gonzalez’s speech.
So, dear gun owner and anti-gun control activist, to start with I don’t want you to give up your gun. I don’t want any laws that make the government take away your gun. Sorry, I take that back. I actually would prefer a gun free society, where nobody (or a small percentage of the population) owns any guns. Believe me, such societies exist around the world and they are as safe, if not safer than, the society that we live in. But I also understand that dreaming of such a society is unrealistic in this country. So, let us make peace with the fact that the US has more guns than it has people, and that fact is not going to change. At 101 guns per 100 people, US is way above the runner up Serbia (58 per 100). Most probably, you are thinking of buying another gun, or two, to add to your cache in the next month or next year. But let us just think about how we can make our society safer in spite of that.
I started with this Facebook video (embedded below) posted by a friend. The video was framed with the text “This is the best and smartest gun argument I have heard yet” and was widely shared. It had 29+ million views on Facebook when I started writing this, and had crossed 30 million views by the time I finished. It is an easy watch, all of 7 minutes. It had some logical sounding arguments, I watched it, and started to research the subject. I propose you watch it too before reading my views on it.
I generally concentrate on the message and try to not attack the messenger, and so I watched the whole video in right earnest, with an open mind, trying to once again understand the logic against gun regulation. This guy was addressing the Congress, so there was no reason for me to doubt his credentials. The speaker starts amid an applause and in the first 30 seconds of the video you see Paul Ryan listening attentively, later in the video you see Chuck Schumer smiling approvingly, Lindsay Graham, John Kerry, and Eric Holder looking on, and other distinguished members of the Congress and the Obama government, listening, interacting with each other. Well, you get the point that this is a little older video and the speaker is addressing the Congress in the Obama era. The guy’s name, shown in the description of the video, is Bill Whittle. So, I researched him a little for this post and wanted to look for a YouTube video instead, in the hopes that it will be without the “frame” (I hate these frames that reduce the quality of the video, and are generally someone else’s copy of the original video). And I did find one. But what I also discovered there and on his website was that he was calling himself the “Virtual President of the United States”. Remember, this was Obama’s presidency, so you see the need for the Right to create a virtual president. Very soon you realize that this is a fake video interspersed with visuals of these dignitaries appearing as listening to him, when he perhaps was standing in his living room filming this video. So, he gets a 10 on 10 on phoniness and duplicity. The applause, the attentive audience, are all fake.
Let us now turn to his message. 1. Mr. Whittle starts with comparing gun violence with a leopard chasing a gazelle. He says violence is built into human psyche, always will be, and some of us are predators and others are preys. So, the bad guys are like leopards and the good guys are gazelles, and the guns are the latter’s horns. And gun control activists are basically cutting off the gazelle’s horns and making it easy for the predator. Now I don’t know how often the gazelle wins against a leopard in the jungle, but the problem with his argument is that gun regulation aiming to disarm the prey is preposterous. Gun regulation is trying to disarm the predator, making it harder for bad guys to get guns. We are with you, we are okay with good guys to have guns, but help us make it harder for the bad guys and insane people to do so. The only way to do so is to make background checks and mental health checks compulsory for gun purchases. So the gazelle-leopard analogy is nonsensical. It may have made sense if anyone was proposing to disarm everyone but the bad guys. 2. Then our Virtual President reels out some funky numbers, using the predictably asinine tactic of comparing guns with automobiles, knives, hammers, even doctors, and concludes that “studies show” 800,000 to 2 million lives are saved by guns every year. What studies? What is the basis for this claim? Is he saying that many people would have been killed in the country without guns in private hands. Which country bears witness to this data? Read this article, based on actual studies reported by David Hemenway, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Please read the short article, but here is an excerpt:
Almost two-thirds of the people in the U.S. population live in homes without guns, and there is no evidence that the inhabitants of these homes are at greater risk of being robbed, injured or killed by criminals compared with citizens in homes with guns. Instead, the evidence is overwhelming that a gun in the home increases the likelihood not only that a household member will be shot accidentally, but also that someone in the home will die in a suicide or homicide.
3. At about 3:00 minutes in the video, Bill Whittle gives the example of Amanda Collins, who was walking to her car in a University parking garage after an evening class at University of Nevada in Reno. She was attacked and raped, and later on her rapist also murdered another woman. Now the point being made is that had Amanda been armed, the rape and the murder would not have happened — and the reason she was not armed was because guns are not allowed on the campus, something that must be changed. I think this is a very tall claim. First of all how many gun owners carry their guns all the time, to work, to school, to church, to a theater, to a restaurant? Do you, the gun owner reading this article, do so? Yes? OK, let us say she did carry her gun, what are the chances that when she was suddenly surprised by the attacker she would have been able to get her gun before he overpowered her. I looked her up and read about her horrific ordeal, which is very tragic. Listen to her describing her ordeal in this video on the “NRA Women” website. The criminal was hiding behind a pickup truck in the garage, jumped her, and overpowered her. So, yes, there was a small possibility that had the school not been a gun free zone, had she carried her gun all the time, had she been able to outwit and outpower the attacker, the tragedy may not have happened. But to take it for granted in the face of so many ifs is to be disingenuous. Not to speak of the other adverse impact people routinely carrying guns in the class, office, theater, restaurant, can have. Also, the assumption here is that had Amanda been armed, she would not only have saved herself she would also have killed the criminal, so that he would not have lived to commit another crime. At this point, the “Virtual President” directs the “Virtual Attorney General” to challenge any gun control laws, blah, blah, blah (you should watch the video – it is hilarious when you realize the audience is fake). I should have caught on the “Virtual” bit in my first watching of the video. 4. With the real Attorney General Eric Holder “attentively listening to his boss”, next Mr. Whittle talks about how the Second Amendment is about saving people from tyranny of the politicians “like us”(ha ha!). At this point, John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Chuck Schumer “nod their approval”. Obviously, Whittle and the audience are shown together in none of the frames, and the camera never pans from him to the audience. This facade is so funny, it is not funny. He goes on to say that by proposing gun regulation, we are ignoring the constitution and have no legal authority to do so. Even if we ignore the vague nature of the 2nd amendment, there is nothing in it that prevents us from ensuring that proper public safety provisions are built into gun ownership. If the first amendment comes with riders and responsibilities, so does the second. So, how is commonsense regulation negating the constitution in any way? 5. Lastly he takes us around the world and explains how atrocities were committed by governments around the world. The assumption is that if the populations of those countries had been armed, the atrocities would not have happened, or the results would have been different. There is no proof, no precedent of such a happening anywhere. In fact, local militia in most countries he has named have turned on the local population. Just try to imagine the scenario. Nobody knows what chaos will arise if there is a tyrannical government and the population rises in arms against it. Will the public fight the US Army? The police? Who will organize such a revolt? Then, don’t you think our shotguns and AR-15s may not be enough against the “tyrannical” government’s tanks, air power, and nuclear weapons? We seem to be pretending to be living in the civil war era mindset and weaponry. The limited likelihood of this happening is also something that makes this argument the final go-to argument for gun advocates (never gonna happen, so why not use this argument!). But even if we take this argument of protection against tyrannical governments on face value, how will commonsense regulation that prevents criminals and mentally unstable people from having guns weaken the public’s protection against tyranny? If anything, we will be stronger with no guns in the hands of crazies and criminals; won’t we?
So, that is the end of my analysis of Our Virtual President’s anti-gun control speech. If this was the best ever pro-gun argument you had ever heard, try again. If nothing else, think of the duplicity, the cunningness in creating this video with the intention of creating such false impressions and a false narrative. In the meantime, in this era of fake news, whoever uploaded this video to Facebook is laughing all the way to the bank, as millions more watch and share the video and lap up his “speech to the Congress” like simpletons.
Since this was a short 7 minute video, Mr. Bill Whittle didn’t have time to go through some other frequently used arguments in favor of gun ownership or against gun control. For example:
1. People kill people, guns don’t.
2. It’s the culture, the video games, the movies, not guns.
3. But I need it for my self defense and self preservation.
4. AR-15 is not an assault rifle.
5. I need it for hunting.
6. Good guy with a gun vs Bad guy with a gun
7. Bad guys will get guns anyway
Let us take a look at these in Part 2 of this series. Feel free to share this article, and share your views about it. Thanks for your time. Click here to read Part 2 of this series.
Lipstick Under My Burkha should not have been banned by the Censor Board. In fact, there should be no Censor Board. If Hollywood can be responsible enough to self-censor, why not Indian cinema?
Sanjay Leela Bhansali should not have been assaulted in Jaipur.
Tarek Fatah should not have been heckled and attacked at Rekhta, and legal action should be taken against the Muslim organization that announced a 1 million Rupee award for his head.
Going a few years back, Salman Rushdie should not have been stopped from speaking at Jaipur Literary Festival. In fact his book should be unbanned and he should be free to visit and speak anywhere in India.
Now this is a minuscule list of the examples of quelling of freedom of expression in India in recent times. I have picked diverse examples intentionally from across the political spectrum to let the readers assess if they will stand up against each of these cases of restriction of freedom of speech. So, here is the thing: if you do not stand against each case of suppression of freedom of speech, then you have no right to complain that freedom of speech is being restricted in the country. You can be standing up for your Right wing values, or for your Left wing values, but you cannot be standing up for freedom of speech, unless you respect everyone’s right to free speech.
What actually happened in Ramjas College late last week, and who is at fault, is really hard to judge if you were not actually at the scene, particularly with multiple sides making contradictory claims about the sequence of events. However, I would like to go over three videos and express my opinion. Later in this article, I would like to propose how India needs to take a page out of the West’s playbook regarding freedom of speech, particularly the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution. Video 1: Newslaundry report from Ramjas
This video very effectively documents multiple student statements and testimonies accusing ABVP “goons” of inflicting violence upon the students. It is hard to tell if the video is giving all students a voice, but it goes without saying that the violence perpetrated is regrettable and unacceptable, and so is the suppression of speech and cancellation of the seminar.
However, there is just one more thing I have to say about this video: Azadi
Starting at 3:03 minutes Sanjay Kumar, reportedly a DU faculty member, questions why “they” have a problem with the word “Azadi”. I think I have an answer for Sanjay Kumar. I believe this word has been chosen by the Left deliberately to provoke and troll the so called “nationalists”. The screams of azadi remind one of the secessionist slogans raised in Kashmir. “Hum kya chahite, Azaadi” is a typically Kashmiri slogan and makes sense only when raised in a Kashmiri accent — हम क्या चाहिते, आज़ादी. This blogger is a migrant from Kashmir and cannot disassociate the word from the terror the screams for azadi in Kashmir’s streets meant for minority community in the valley. You can justify all you want that you are asking for independence from oppression, poverty, blah-blah, but words acquire meanings, and this word is inalienably linked to Kashmir’s clarion call for separation from India, primarily based on religious differences. Now you can be fully in favor of Kashmir’s azadi from India and I am fine with that, but if that is not what your intention is, then don’t yell “azadi azadi” without a context. A word like “swatantrata” may be a mouthful and I wouldn’t want to burden the poor English medium educated slogan shouters with such a heavy word, but even the word “freedom” may be enough to meet your needs. Point is, the dictionary gives you several other ways of pronouncing your hatred of oppression and poverty — unless your intention is to troll and provoke.
Or, on the positive side, if the word is extensively used in Delhi and rest of the country, it may acquire a new meaning and no longer be so closely linked to Kashmir’s secessionist demand. Video 2: Newslaundry’s Facebook Live Interview with ABVP Leaders:
This interview of DUSU vice president Priyanka Chhawri and former DUSU president Satender Awana is a very good example of what not to do from a news organization’s point of view. The interviewer is ill prepared. He tries to be critical of ABVP but ends up getting bullied into accepting their point of view on several issues. The student leaders try un-convincingly to assert that the trouble makers were all on AISA side, but their other arguments about the Left’s treatment of right wingers in Kerala, some media outlets’ one-sided anti-ABVP coverage, AISA leader’s untrue tweets about section 144, were driven home well, even though Awana’s aggressive attitude is off-putting. The participating trio in this video seems to be going over some videos of the incidents but the viewers are given no clue about what the three were watching and what they are trying to prove. At one point, Awana turns the laptop screen towards the camera, but there is no way the viewers can see anything. Very unprofessional presentation.
Overall, this was a one sided video. I am wondering how it would have looked if multiple sides were brought in to debate. I’m sure there would have been fireworks! For all the complaints being made about suppression of speech, it seems not letting others speak is not a Left or Right thing, but an Indian thing. This is evident from any “debate” you see on television, or even if you are trying to have a debate with anybody in person. Every participant is bent upon making the dialogue into a monologue.
Several times in this video Satender Awana criticizes JNU’s Shehla Rashid for bringing a stone to the NDTV studio as if that was proof that she was attacked with it. Shehla may have actually been attacked with that stone, but just bringing it to the studio was not proof of her being attacked with it. Also watch this video from NDTV that shows how Miss Rashid shuts and shouts down RSS’s Rakesh Sinha, and how the anchor Nidhi Razdan watches helplessly. You will get a chuckle out of this.
What is important is that the Left needs to get off its high moral horse. Whenever and wherever they can, they suppress dissent equally vehemently, and equally violently. Be it Kerala, be it West Bengal, be it JNU, or be it Jamia, or be it Cuba, China or erstwhile Eastern Bloc. I’m tired of Right wing social media posts as much as I am tired of Leftists’ grandstanding that pretty much tells you, “If you are not with us; if you are not calling Modi a fascist and a murderer, you are a part of the problem.” It is this haughty attitude of the Left that drives people into the laps of Modis and Trumps. Communism is not the greatest thing since sliced bread and if it was, it would have had more representation in the country’s legislative bodies. “But the voters are stupid bigots!”, you say. Well, say that at your own peril. Video 3: Ravish Kumar – Ramjas College in NDTV
This video is a very important one for several reasons. It brings together several planned participants of the canceled Ramjas seminar and presents to the viewers what they “would have said” at the seminar. Now there is no way of knowing if the participants (read: Umar Khalid) would have stuck to this script, but this video proves two things. One, there was apparently nothing explosive or anti-national that was planned. Two, suppression of speech does not help the suppressors of speech. On the contrary, the suppressed usually gets a wider and more interested audience after that, whether it is a canceled seminar or a banned film. Take Kanhaiya Kumar. I have seen several of his speech videos and I don’t find anything inspiring or of substance in his speeches; it is mostly rhetoric, or jumlas (to use the Left’s terminology). However, owing to what happened in JNU last year, he is now a household name in India, for better or for worse. If he had not been to Tihar, nobody would have heard his name outside JNU. Umar Khalid seems to talk much more sense in comparison, although I am not convinced from his speech that he did not raise anti-India slogans.
Let us talk about the limits freedom of speech can go to in the West, particularly in my adopted country the United States. So, there is this thing called the First Amendment. It reads as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Most people, when they talk about “my first amendment rights” talk about their freedom of speech. Here are some examples of exercise of freedom of speech that would be hard to exercise in India, and are guaranteed in the US:
1. People can burn the US flag, or criticize or burn a religious book, without being prosecuted.
2. Country’s leaders can be mocked and criticized on the mainstream media much more vehemently.
3. I think the most egregious example of protection of freedom of speech is the fact that a hated organization like Westboro Baptist Church can protest in front of soldier’s funerals and jewish community centers and profess their hatred.
In spite of the above, there are cases of controversial speakers being prevented from speaking at Universities by student groups. However, in general, the point I am trying to make is that free speech is important and no amount of slogan shouting and speech giving can weaken a nation, unless you ban that speech and widen its reach. No amount of criticism of religion, religious books, or religious figures should be able to weaken a religion. Let us counter speech with speech, not with violence. Remember, people have rights, ideas do not.
Recently, pictures of British Prime Minister Theresa May wearing a sari have been doing the rounds on social media, with captions on the lines of “New British PM’s first day in office and she chose to wear an Indian sari. Many Indians don’t do so. Salute to new lady PM of Britain.” This is partly a hoax. I am not sure what people get by initiating false information. Others, who find the posts aligning with their thinking cannot be blamed for sharing the posts, but why do people initiate lies in the first place? Someone somewhere must have purposefully put a false caption on the picture.
A simple Google search on “Theresa May Sari” brings up a six year old news item from Daily Mail with those pictures. So, no, Theresa May did not wear a sari to her first day in office, but wore it to an Asian Women’s Awards function in 2010, which she attended in her capacity as British Home Secretary.
You go through the comments on such posts and find people (mostly men) expressing pride in the fact that May “wore a sari to work”, and lament why Indian women no longer do so. “Sari has always been the standard dress for women in homes and workplace. It has a unique grace about itself and commands instant respect from colleagues and strangers alike. The so called modern dress for women lacks in grace. It is revealing, inviting unwanted attention. It is inconsistent with the seriousness of the business of the workplace.”, said a very close and dear friend. This prompted me to pick up my keyboard and write this blog post, in an effort to put my opinion out there and gather some feedback. Following are the points I want to make.
1. Of course it is hard to get over our patriarchal mindsets, but it is not men’s business to decide what women should prefer to wear. It is up to women to decide what they feel comfortable with and what suits them better. If we respect them less for not wearing a sari, the problem is with us, not with them.
2. Is a sari an ideal dress for the workplace? Now whether it is Oprah wearing a sari for her show or Theresa May dressing up for a function, I’m sure they need an assistant who coaches them to dress up for the occasion, or at least a tutorial in wearing a sari. I have seen even women in our households taking help from other women to make sure the sari is properly worn, the churis are well made, the pallu is correctly placed. Which other dress, other than archaic dresses like pagri or dhoti, needs such an elaborate tutorial or help, or is so much time consuming to put on? On top of that, a sari needs regular care and maintenance during the period it is worn, lest the pallu or the churis come undone or get misaligned. I think the sari is a great and very graceful dress for a formal occasion, but for the regular workplace, and even at home, you need something that is quick to put on, and easy to handle in a day’s work. A salwar kameez is much easier to wear and handle, and so are western dresses. I’m sure there are companies in the travel and hospitality industry that correctly enforce sari as a dress code, but in other workplaces, it is unduly burdensome.
3. Are western dresses more revealing than a sari? I believe any dress can be made as covering as one wants, and as revealing as one wants, and it is up to the woman wearing it to decide what she wants to do. In fact, I think a sari lends itself to more sensuous styling than some other dresses. A sari dress basically leaves your midriff and back bare, and you have to then manage to cover it with the sari, and it is up to the wearer how much to cover. Just look at the following pictures and try to get the point I am trying to make. (Theresa May’s pictures are from the same article as the one linked above.)
4. If we are so serious about keeping Indian culture alive through workplace clothing, why not start with male clothing? Why not take the lead of the netas and wear kurta pajamas or dhoti kurtas to work?
I look forward to your feedback, positive or negative.
Even though I grew up reading Khushwant Singh’s columns in the 70s and 80s, for recent years I had not read much from or about him. For a short period I wondered if he was even alive — until my last trip to India in August when I laid my hands on what may have been one of his last books – “The Company of Women”. This book was a virtual “mastram” book, and even though he kept the reader hooked with his story telling, there were no pretensions of literary class. It looked like he had either lost his mojo in his 90s or had used a ghost writer. Khushwant Singh died today at the age of 99. He will be missed, for being part of my very early English reading, if for nothing else. Khushwant Singh was famous for writing about his love of scotch, women and gossip. However, although he wrote a lot about these things, he was never in the news for excess of these things in his personal life. If he drank a lot of scotch, he was never in the news for it. His personal life seemed more like that of a regular family man than that of a casanova that he could have been.
The Illustrated Weekly edited by Khushwant Singh in the 70s was my first real exposure to English reading. Then in 80s his column “With Malice Towards One and All” in The Hindustan Times was my regular read. His column always ended with a joke, usually sent in by a reader. I used to send him (recycled) jokes sometimes, and he published mine once. Another time he sent me a handwritten postcard with the message “Mr. Kaul, I published a similar joke already”.
I believe the first time I heard the word “gay” being used for homosexuals was through his column. He wrote something about the Indian word for gay could be “Khush”, even though it pointed to his name and that he was far from being gay.
Even though Khushwant called himself an atheist, he seemed to maintain a close connection with his Sikh religion. He wrote several books on Sikhism, never gave up his Sikh headgear, and even returned his Padma Bhushan in protest against Operation Bluestar.
Even though I haven’t read too many of Khushwant Singh’s books, the “Train to Pakistan” is a memorable one and was also made into a feature film.
Here’s a little excerpt from his column from a few years ago:
I also got a lot of hate mail. It did not upset me. However, one letter from Canada became a memento. It had the foulest Punjabi abuse accusing me of all manners of incestuous relationships. They were in Gurmukhi. Only the address was in English and very brief: “Bastard Khush-want Singh, India”.
I was most impressed by the efficiency of the Indian Postal Service in locating the address of the one and only bastard in the country.