Sunday, 6 January 2013

Liberal India Plays Whack-A-Clown With Joker Politicians

[This is an ever-lengthening blog post because of the never-ending parade of clowns that is emerging from the woodwork.]

Reading the daily news coming out of India these days, I'm reminded of the arcade game Whack-a-Clown. Whenever a clown pops his head out of one of several holes in a board, you have to be fast and whack him before he pops back in. The more clowns you manage to whack, the higher your score.

If only they could talk and say outrageous things, whacking them would be so much more fun!

The Indian version is played with live politicians and is vastly more entertaining.

However, this game had a very sombre beginning. A girl was brutally raped and assaulted by a gang of men in Delhi, and she later died in hospital. The incident shone a spotlight on the appalling lack of safety for women in India, and this is when the clowns started to appear, each with his assessment of the situation and a prescription straight from the middle ages.

Each time a clown popped his head out of a hole and made a statement, the liberal media and Twitter were all over him. Whack! Dazed and confused, the clown would mumble an apology and duck back into his hole, only to be followed very shortly after by another clown from another hole. Whack! And so the game continues.

1. Abhijit Mukherjee, MP and son of the President:

Women who are participating in candlelight vigils and those who are protesting have no connection with ground reality. These pretty ladies coming out to protest are highly dented and painted, they're giving interviews on TV, they've brought their children to show them the scenes. I have grave doubts whether they're students, because women of that age are generally not students.

After a public dressing-down from his own sister, Mukherjee apologised for hurting sentiments, but pointedly did not disavow his remark.

Abhijit Mukherjee - dented, yes; repented, no.

2. Botsa Satyanarayana, Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee President:

Just because India got freedom at midnight, is it necessary for women to move on the streets at midnight? [...] The woman should not have boarded a private bus at such an odd hour. She should have assessed the situation before getting into the bus [...] Though it was a minor incident, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was gracious enough to intervene and hold negotiations with the protestors to bring the situation under control.

When his remarks drew strong criticism even from his own party, Satyanarayana called a press conference to apologise and offer a breathtaking spin on what he had meant, "What I meant was that the government should create an atmosphere where women can move around even at midnight."

Whack! This was a satisfying one.

Botsa Satyanarayana - At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India produces clowns like this

Young men are provoked to commit rape because of the way women dress. Since they dress like Europeans, incidents of rape are taking place in the country. Such mishaps happen because of women's provocative clothing. Earlier there was a decency in the way women dressed, but that is missing now.

No word on whether Barq has apologised for his remarks. This clown seems to have managed to duck back into his hole before he could be whacked on the head.

Shafiqur Rahman Barq - We already have a saffron Taliban, but I suppose we can make room for the real one

4. Kailash Vijayvargiya, Madhya Pradesh BJP Industries Minister:

Women must keep themselves within the limits of 'maryada' (morality/dignity) or face the music. [...] Everyone must stay within Lakshman Rekha (line in the sand). Ravan grabs and takes away those who cross the line just as he kidnapped Sita.

I guess his tortured misquoting from the Ramayana annoyed even his saffron groupies, and after some criticism from all quarters, he finally apologised. Whack, whack!

Kailash Vijayvargiya - realised too late the perils of crossing the Lakshman Rekha

5. Mohan Bhagwat, RSS Chief:

Such crimes hardly take place in 'Bharat', but they occur frequently in 'India'[...] You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang-rape or sex crimes. They are prevalent in some urban belts. Besides new legislation, Indian ethos and attitude towards women should be revisited in the context of ancient Indian values.

The BJP did not turn on Bhagwat the way it did on Vijayvargiya, and defended him. The clown ducked, only to pop up again very soon.

A husband and wife are involved in a contract under which the husband has said that you should take care of my house and I will take care of all your needs. I will keep you safe. So, the husband follows the contract terms. Till the time [sic] the wife follows the contract, the husband stays with her, if the wife violates the contract, he can disown her.

To be fair, there is some controversy over whether he said this as a statement of his belief, or whether he was quoted out of context and was actually referring to Western marriages as contracts with these terms. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. However, even in the clarification by the RSS, what emerges is this:

He (Bhagwat) said that western marriage system is contractual [...] Whereas the Indian marriage system is a sacred concept where women have a lot of respect and men have certain obligations.

Even in the sanitised version, what emerges is Mohan Bhagwat's and the RSS's contempt for Western marriages, where (just as a simple example of practical respect) men happen to do much more of the housework than Indian men are wont to do. The cultural jingoism of the RSS is beyond belief.

Mohan Bhagwat - the official RSS clown outfit and idiotic faux Nazi salute make the red nose superfluous

6. Ashok Singhal, VHP International Advisor:

This western model is alarming. What is happening is we have imbibed the US. We have lost all the values we had, in the cities. [The live-in relationship style] is not only foreign to our culture, but also hostile. [...] Indians lived a life of 'purity' prior to the arrival of British rulers [...] 'purity' of virginity ('brahmacharyam'), is being disturbed. Virginity was preserved. But the purity has been totally disturbed. Now we are losing it.

No criticism was fast enough for this clown, who managed to duck back into his hole.

Ashok Singhal - The western model of overseas Hindus filling VHP coffers with dollars is even more alarming

It isn't just political leaders. Babas and godmen are not to be outdone.

7. Asaram Bapu, "spiritual" leader:

It's not just 5-6 people who are the culprits. The victim daughter is as guilty as her rapists. She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop. This could have saved her dignity and life. [...] Can one hand clap? I don't think so. [When the girl encountered six drunk men] she should have taken God's name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said I consider you as my brother and should have said to the other two 'Brother I am helpless, you are my brother, my religious brother.' She should have taken God's name and held their hands and feet...then the misconduct wouldn't have happened.

Protests have been organised against him and even the BJP has condemned his statements. Other godmen have also condemned his statements. But so far, no apology. This clown refuses to bow even after being whacked.

Asaram Bapu - Can one hand clap? No, but it can slap. Too bad no one did.

Cartoon in The Hindu

8. T Thiagarajan, Education minister, Union Territory of Puducherry:

The meeting resolved to introduce overcoats for girl students, operate special buses for them and ban mobile phones in schools. Our government is committed to ensuring safety of women, particularly girl students.

Puducherry is not exactly known for a cool climate, so clearly the government considers heat strokes from the use of overcoats to be the lesser evil.

And I don't know about you, but if I was concerned about the safety of my school-going daughter, I would sure as hell ensure she had her mobile phone with her at all times! How will taking away a girl's means of communication keep her safer?

It was a cowardly response that was just meant to show that the government was doing something, with no regard to whether the solution was appropriate or even workable.

There was thankfully no shortage of willing hands that emerged with alacrity to whack this set of clowns down.

All India Democratic Women's Association general secretary Sudha Sundararaman, who strongly criticised the government's decision to make overcoats compulsory, charged that the government had trivialized the issue without addressing the root of the problem. "By evolving a dress code, the government has made women answerable and accountable for the crime instead of perpetrators of the crime, which is totally unacceptable," she said.

That's telling them.

The Puducherry government hastily backtracked, as all cowards are known to do.

T Thiagarajan, sans overcoat, put his own spin on the government's original decision as well as its U-turn, which fooled nobody and simply offered more entertainment.

The idea to switch from dupattas to overcoats for women students was only for the sake of convenience, as dupattas often tend to get caught in cycle chains [...] the term “overcoat” itself is a misnomer [...] The government was considering changing the uniforms anyway and instead of the earlier dupatta, many principals thought that a waistcoat over the student’s uniform would be more comfortable for them to wear.

Nice try!

T Thiagarajan - Southern stupidity
With apologies to the old patriotic slogan, "Kashmir to Kanyakumari, India is one...big bunch of jokers"

9. Abu Azmi, Samajwadi Party MLA, Maharashtra State assembly:

Women should not venture out with men who are not relatives [...] What is the need for roaming at night with men who are not relatives? This should be stopped [...] Such incidents (like the Delhi gang rape) happen due to influence of western culture [...] Scantily-clad women attract male attention [...] rape cases are on the rise due to women wearing less clothes [...] rape is a phenomenon that happens in cities and not in villages

Wow! This guy pretty much covered it all. He trumped all the rest by casting the widest possible net in search of stupid things to say.

His own family was embarrassed. His son apologised on his behalf, and even his daughter-in-law (a role expected to be docile in Indian families) publicly disagreed with him.

Even after the familial whacking, this clown remained defiant.

The statements made by me were out of concern for women's safety. I stand by them. There is no need to apologize for any of those remarks

His later remarks were telling.

My party may disagree with me, but I find nothing wrong in my statement. I have every right to express my views. I have the freedom to express my views. Similarly, (son) Farhan and (daughter-in-law) Ayesha have the freedom to express their opinion. Differences among family members are because of generation gap

He hit the nail on the head with that last comment. It's the generation gap that is showing in most of these comments (with the curious exception of not-so-old Abhijit Mukherjee).

Abu Azmi - "Do I look like a guy with a plan?...I just say things"

10. Babulal Gaur, Madhya Pradesh BJP Urban Administration & Development minister:

Women in foreign countries wear jeans and T-shirts, dance with other men and even drink liquor, but that is their culture. It's good for them, but not for India, where only our traditions and culture are ok [...] Let women consider what is good and bad for them

Not wishing to go as far as his ministerial colleague Kailash Vijayvargiya, who ominously drew a Lakshman Rekha in the sand that women dare not cross lest the demon Ravan abduct them, Gaur magnanimously left it to women to "consider what is good and bad for them".

Babulal Gaur - He hopes voters don't consider what is good and bad for them

The comments on the news site reporting it were almost unanimously scathing. Here's a sample:


Then what is the difference between Taliban and BJP

Arre Babu lal Guar, which world do you reside in? Have you become senile? wake-up. Our women are no more just those who help milk the cow, clean the floor with cowdung etc. etc. wakie, wakie buddy!

And what about Men.. No sermons for them

If BJP comes to power in India, this will be the fate of Women folk.

chal be anpad aadmi....ja apne gaao me jaakar apni bhainso ka dho.mantri ban ne laayak nai hai tu... (Get lost, you illiterate...go to your village and wash your buffaloes. You aren't fit to be a minister)

Historically in India women and men, especially elders, have been smoking hukkaahs socially and also have been drinking liquor together. This New-Age "Hindu" tradition is actually wrong and made up by mor0ns. It is not against Indian culture for women and men to socially indulge in drinking wine or smoking tobacco.

Ministers!!!! Kindly understand its not WOMAN who are r@ping . So instruct the MEN FOLK how to behave and what to drink or not.

Mr Babulal, would you care to clarify if men aping western culture is Ok with you and if yes then why?

Bjp Leadership Please ask these cartoons to shut their mouth if at all it hopes of coming in to power.....

another politician aping an APE

I am against any restriction on freedom of women.

may be personal views of babulal gaur.looking backward mentality.

A couple of comments like the above may not mean much, but there were so many! This could truly mean India has crossed a civilisational milestone. No politician can turn back the clock. Even better, such obscurantist pontification is no longer even populist.

And now the disease has spread to other officials.

11. Satyapal Singh, Mumbai Police Commissioner:

Sex education needs to be carefully thought out. Look at America. It has sex education as part of its curriculum, but students are simply being taught about how to have intercourse [...] According to a survey, rape is more common than smoking there. Countries with sex education in their curriculum only have an increased number of crimes against women. [...] Television serials openly show pre-marital and extra-marital sex. Nobody condemns it. Plus, the current generation has easy access to pornographic websites. Even cellphones have Internet these days, making it all the more easier

It's shocking to see that a Police Commissioner believes that sex education is about teaching kids to have intercourse. And the traditional morality that inflicts so many has confused his thinking to the extent that he conflates (consensual) pre-marital and extra-marital sex to rape and crimes against women. When will people stop judging consensual sex through the lens of their own morality, and learn to recognise that the evil lies in non-consensual sex?

A commenter named Anushka (Tuesday , 15 Jan '13 21:53:00 PM) posted the most reasoned rebuttal:

One of the first things sex education in the West teaches children is that if someone touches them inappropriately or uncomfortably, they should report this to a responsible adult. If that adult does not report this to the police, he/she becomes complicit and liable in the crime. I can understand why the Police Commissioner is made uncomfortable by the idea of the people, even the youngest members of society, being given the right to protect themselves. At later stages, sex education comprises issues of health, hygiene, love, affection, friendship, acceptance of difference. At all times, respect, for oneself and others, is the keyword. It gives power to the people, which ignorance does not. Police commissioner, please consult expert educators, the UN etc before you make utter such dangerous, ill-informed opinions.

In a previous set of comments, the same Police Commissioner had rambled on about the lack of culture in modern education.

What has happened in Delhi or what happens in Mumbai, it is the consequence of the absence of culture. The education that is imparted in our schools and colleges is devoid of cultural content. Life values are not taught.

Innocuous enough. But he then took his argument a step further, bizarrely claiming that suicides are more common among English-educated people.

Most suicides are committed by those who have studied in the English medium. I have never heard of or seen a Sanskrit-medium educated person committing suicide. And it is a known fact that more and more people are today sending their children to English-medium schools.

I see. So a Sanskrit-medium education can save lives. Better a dead language than dead people, the Commissioner seems to say.

Satyapal Singh - Sex education bad, English education bad. Education is the root of all evil.

While there has been some reaction over the commissioner's remarks, it hasn't attracted the same level of outrage as previous comments from officials. Perhaps, as the doctor-patient cartoon would have it, the liberals aren't suffering from apathy, they're suffering from outrage exhaustion.

The hand that whacks is getting tired. There are simply too many clowns!

First politicians, then Hindu gurus, then non-elected public officials, now the baton passes to non-elected leaders of the Muslim community.

12. Maulana Jalaluddin Umri, head of the Indian Jamaat-e-Islami:

The problem starts with co-education. We are saying educate the girls as much as you want, but give the education separately. [...] Today our society is tolerating and even accepting live-in relationships. This is opening the doors to evil. Why will (such a man) marry? [...] Hindus, Muslims and Christians marry according to their customs. Only such marriages should be legally recognised," he said. Others are living together for years and then going to court to get that registered. Such relations are not good for society.

I guess the silver lining in his speech was that he was willing to recognise marriages performed according to Hindu and Christian customs. That's a great leap forward for a leader of the Muslim community.

And while not an emphatic whack on the head, the Jamaat's Kerala wing was distinctly uncomfortable with the anti-co-education stance of their national leader, and the youth wing of the Jamaat, the JIH-Solidarity, spoke out to say that "the organisation believes in gender equality and gender justice and so there is no need of a separate education system". Wha-aek!

Maulana Jalaluddin Umri - "Educate girls separately"; Just what is it about women's empowerment that scares these old men witless?

13. Mufti Maulana Bashir-ud-din, Kashmir's Grand Mufti:

Girls are responsible for the rape. They should be in their limits. They must wear the veil at all times. They can sing inside their homes. They shouldn't sing in public. They are giving bad signals to men.

He was expressing his disapproval of three Kashmiri high school girls who had formed a rock band and were giving public performances.

Kashmir's young, urbane and Twitter-happy Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, tweeted in retort:

Given the importance people attach to the fatwas of the Grand Mufti, the less said the better

(He later deleted the tweet, perhaps out of fear for his own skin?!)

The issue has kicked up a storm, and the Mufti is not without his allies who vie with him in issuing similar statements. However, the fatwa has done wonders in stirring up support for the girls across the country, and the Grand Clown is being whacked from all sides.

Mufti Maulana Bashir-ud-din - he and his band are facing the music

Update 14/02/2013: And now that it's Valentine's Day, here's some more.

14. Manoj Solanki, state convener, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (Society for Awakening the Hindu People):

Since the Bharatiya (Indian) youth is turning towards indulgence by blindly following westerners, it has been noticed that the sale of contraceptives peaks on this day [Valentine's Day].....This leads to a rise in incidents of rapes and other atrocities.

Manoj Solanki - wants Indians to awaken, not sleep (together)

So far, news sites have only reported his statement. There has been no public rebuttal. One can only hope the silence means people are shaking their heads in disbelief.

The disconnect in views shouldn't be too surprising when we remember that the average age of the country is 25, and the average age of its ministers is 65. Only a wholesale purge of the political class will  bring about some semblance of a connected government. And not just the political class but every position of authority held by "old fogies".

It's clear that the culture war is on. The purported saviours of the country, red noses proudly on display, have made their views clear. The cities, the educated, the liberal, the independent women, all of these are the epitome of evil. Only a return to the glories of Indian culture, best preserved in its villages, can save the country.

How many more clowns must we whack before the game is over?

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