article, free speech, Journalism, life, politics

50-50 Democracy: India is a sinking boat for freethinkers

Ramachandra Guha very rightly characterised India as a 50-50 democracy, which upholds certain aspects of democracy with staunch rigidity like elections, while remaining uneasily lax about law and order as well as seething political corruption. India has time and again shown the extent of the culture of intolerance practised in the name of democracy. While ‘intolerance’ may be understood as someone’s democratic right, it cannot encroach another’s right to life and liberty. Taslima Nasreen is the latest (but not the first) victim of this intolerant strain.

Taslima Nasreen, who landed in Aurangabad with the intention of visiting Ajanta and Ellora caves, was barred from leaving her hotel premise by protesters, led All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen MLA Imtiaz Jaleel. Her act was deemed offensive to Muslims residing in the city. Taslima has been in the past hounded by Islamist radicals due to her controversial views on Islam, which had caused a flurry in Bangladesh, leading to her exile from the country in 1994. And once again, with an apparent imminent threat to her well-being, she decided to leave.

Why do we as a nation promote the culture of intolerance? Books have been banned, writers roughed up for progressive criticism. A myriad of social factors, coupled with political complexities have made the political scenario unaccepting of voices of dissent. Freedom of speech has limits which make it hard, nay, impossible to voice opinions without hurting sentiments. We, as a society on the road of economic progress (and social, I pray), must realise that ‘Hurt sentiment’ is a part of the bargain we make to exercise free speech. We already have reasonable restrictions placed on free speech – no state can concede this right without ensuring the safety of its citizens. But so long as speech does not incite or in Guha’s terms, ‘advocate’ the use of physical violence, it must be a right that our democracy must defend. You may hold opinions in opposition to those of a writer but no sole individual or group can claim authority over the movement of an individual if he/she so wishes. This is undemocratic and unlawful.

Taslima Nasreen believes herself to be a crusader against religious fundamentalism; she desires to prove that Islam is not outside the ambit of critical scrutiny. The author’s criticism, which stems from contemporary political and social scenario, may be flawed. Although Bangladesh has, in recent times, seen many intellectuals being hacked for holding dissenting opinions.  To arrive on common ground, a culture of debate is needed, not that of brute force and hooliganism. A creative confluence of ideas is the bedrock of a democracy, which we promised to ourselves in our constitution.  But a set of archaic rules give the state a lot of latitude in placing limits to freedom of speech, which often pander to religious sentiments above individual liberty. We need to free India from the grip of identity politics that work, through the lens of caste and religious, to effectively throttle freedom of expression. Let the government not cow down to political considerations and rise above to reclaim India from its descent into a dark abyss of intolerance.

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article, HATRED, politics, religion, Uncategorized

Nihilism, Death of religion and rise in Organized crime

Angry

The internet spells doom for religion, and an ever-rising graph for organized crime, which has become a bane to our modern society. While the murder of Akhlaq over beef consumption was the writing on the wall for organized religion and its dominance, which often transcends notions of moral law and societal constructs, it spits straight in the face of those who claim that religion is adequate moral police for individuals. While faith without religion is a vain exercise for self-affirmation, religion without faith only aims to train men to toe the religious line of man-made dogmas without any inherent understanding of their individual beliefs. While virtual life creates a parallel world of greater self expression and social cohesiveness among faiths that did not necessarily pre-exist before modern times, it also in a varied sense, limits the real perception of the individual and the moral tone which binds us irrevocably with our environment.

By death of religion, which is apparent in my essay’s title, I do not mean the literal death of religion as an organized social construct, but as a life-force which dominates man’s actions which provide a pathway to heaven, nirvana or any other zenith of self-realization and oneness with God. As we see, there is a rise in the number of Atheists, Agnostics and generally the ‘nowhere in particular’ kinds of people all across the world. That is not to imply that religion has died; just that it holds less credence with its populace. To practice faith without an over-arching system of imposed religious practices is what people at large are turning towards. It only seems rational, to dissociate oneself from tenets of organized religion and exercise one’s faith independently. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that as religion is moving away from being pathway to the creator and increasingly becoming insurmountable defense to facilitate immoral activities under the garb of religious fervor. Moving from the issues of organized religion to those of organized crimes, there is an increment in the incessant tussle between the rational and religion. Incidents such as those that recently occurred at Mathura, and those in the recent past, as the Akhlaq murder incident, I see undertones of Nihilistic philosophy of the self-proclaimed Godmen/Cult leaders who manage to lure the impoverished, illiterate masses, and on occasions, even the rational.

Nihilism, as a philosophy propounded by Nietzsche, believes in total boycott of established rules and institutions, and often, a need for violent activities, or for that matter, any revolutionary activity, that is aimed at being destructive to oneself and society. Nihilists more oft than not, try to transcend the boundaries of moral laws as well as those established by the society, in order to prove their own ideology as superior to others. A similar theory is expressed succinctly and ostracized by Dostoevsky in his opus magnum, Crime and Punishment, through the characters of Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov. Absence of absolute religion and ideas of social influence lead men to the path of heinous crimes and gross misinterpretation of their own actions as being rationalistic as opposed to utilitarian. Self proclaimed leaders like Ram Vriksha Yadav, with their inordinate demands along with other ‘Satyagrahis’, are real-life nihilists who jump the lines of law and order with the grace of a lame frog.

What connects these modern nihilists to the concords of followers of organized religion is the methodology with which they work. Absence of a strong groundwork of faith, which is often replaced by fanaticism and absolutist ideology, shakes the very foundation of such unions. Forceful super-imposition of their rights over those of others and resorting to inordinate methods to exert power leads to unfortunate circumstances as those aforementioned.  While there are a number of reasons like cultural political and social factors, many studies have claimed to show a positive correlation between crime and dearth of adequate religious fervor. While religious hypocrisy holds its shaky stand on faith, these vigilantes need to rein in their bovine love and attach it to a more realistic understanding of humanity. Religion cannot, and must not be used to justify murder. Taking the law in one’s own hands is no solution in an apparently democratic and secular setup. Ambiguous religious identity and nihilistic attitudes that exacerbate tense situations need to be guarded from becoming absolutist ideas.