A “RENEGADE” & THE “FUNNY PEOPLE ” !

The visit of the President of the United States (POTUS) is an event to remember. But, when Barack Obama decided to visit India for the Republic Day Celebrations it triggered unprecedented excitement as after all he was going to be the first ever US President to visit India twice and the first ever to be the Chief Guest at the R Day Parade.

To begin with, the visit offered 24 hour news (gossip?) channels an opportunity to shift focus from “really grave” issues such as the survival prospects of a live fish stuck in a boy’s wind pipe. Having long mastered the art of saying the same things in many ways – What will Obama do in India? Will Obama do anything? Has Obama done anything ever? – “in depth” expert analysis was provided. Nothing was too banal or sacred and Obama’s stomach ailment was explored ad nauseum and almost the entire nation was now an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of “acid reflux” – which was going to deprive the POTUS of the sumptuous and spicy Indian cuisine. Acid reflux?Its our very own “khatti dakaar” !

An earlier Amul ad covered this incident when Obama’s personal physican diagnosed him with “acid reflux”.The Tag Line ..Obamasala Nahin…is a play on the name Obama and the hindi word for spices –“masala”- and translates into no spices for Obama. While the Punch Line…No Spices Here……endorses the taste and virtues of Amul butter.

IMG-20141210-WA0033

Obama’s US codename “Renegade” was known to all and his seven layered security was reported upon in so much detail that even the US Secret Service learnt about its own capabilities watching these Indian channels. Also, ISIS got to know enough to threaten POTUS with beheading inside the White House itself! But some like the Delhi Police weren’t amused on being the outermost layer in their own lair (the farther the better?)!!!!

American “super dogs” were the toast of all channels. Their reported abilities and traits caused de-recognition of “desi” dogs as dogs itself. One guest on a show was at a loss of words when asked why Indian dogs in the forces did not have an officer status akin to their American counterparts. The reporter though tried to suggest that American dogs were smarter as they were thinking in English (Bihar Police dogs would be be gung ho in Bhojpuri?) !

Obama’s USD 1.5 million armour plated Presidential car –the Beast – mesmerized us Indians who are even deprived of wipers (Tata Nano) and other basic safety measures in cars.To ameliorate the situation “manufacturing” hubs in Punjab announced that one can get even his Maruti 800 converted into “the Beast” for a pittance and choose any colour as well. Fluorescent Green with MSG logo is a rage!

In the midst of all this the Americans rapped the Pakistanis on the knuckles over ensuring zero terror strike during the visit or be prepared to face the consequences. This left the neighbours red faced and obviously warmed the cockles of all and sundry in India.

An Amul ad on the US warning to Pakistan depicted this incident with Uncle Sam walking along with the Amul Girl dressed as a NCC Cadet and humiliatingly threatening a caricature depicting the Pakistani Army to ensure an incident free visit.The The tag line “O, bam abhi nahin” is a play on Obama’s name and the hindi word for a bomb and translates into “no bombs now”

B7yF-qoCEAA17Av

Just before the visit was too happen Obama cancelled the Taj Mahal due to the sudden demise of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. This was a dampener of sorts but for some it was good news as they could now merrily spit and deface the monument once again.

An Amul ad had highlighted this issue previously in 2014.

download

Finally..Finally..Obama and Michelle arrived.

PM Narendra Modi broke protocol and received Obama and the First Lady at the airport.From then on, for the next three days, it was the personal chemistry between the two that drove the agenda.

Visuals of the ingenuous “chai pe charcha” (talks over tea) at Hyderabad House between Obama and Modi were beamed the world over and it was a unique one- on- one, in full public view but in private too. The body language and the personal rapport were indicative of a level of comfort unseen between US Presidents and Indian PMs.

This Amul ad on Obama’s visit shows two caricatures depicting him and Modi respectively in the lawns of the Hyderabad House in the same setting as it was during the “chai pe charcha”. The Amul girl has been shown as serving the butter laden toasts being savoured by the two leaders.

B8aZHIYCcAAXR62

The Tag Line..Buddy buddy baatein?.. is a play on the word “buddy” showcasing the bonhomie between the two leaders and the hindi word “badi” meaning big, which illustrates the fact that it was during these talks that perhaps the two leaders laid the foundations for the big breakthroughs achieved during the visit.

The Punch Line….. Bread Butter Bromance. Simply endorses the Amul Butter and the “brotherly” bonhomie between the two leaders.

Obama attended all the functions with a sense of purpose and commitment. He broke protocol during the R Day Parade by attending for two hours instead of the security stipulated 45 minutes. He also made it a point to break into Hindi, whenever he could.Obama’s speech at Siri Fort Auditorium was replete with examples of Indian icons such as Mahatama Gandhi, Swami Vivekanand, Milkha Singh,Kailash Sayarthi,Mary Kom and Shah Rukh Khan.Infact Obama’s attempt at a Bollywood dialogue…”Senorita ..bade bade deshon mein… “ struck a chord and further showcased his intent and positivity towards India and the relations between the two countries.The joint hosting of the popular radio chat “Mann Ki Baat” by Modi and Obama further underscored their personal rapport and was a unique way of demonstrating the growing bonding to a larger audience.

Much of the credit for this rapport goes to the highly successful US visit of Modi, He and Obama bonded based on their humble beginnings and have since carried it forward. The two have demonstrated tremendous statesmanship in taking bilateral relations forward. It’s quite a feat for a second term President, who is considered a “lame duck” to risk his political legacy for India ,whose citizen were once referred to as the “funny people” by Eisoenhower. This is  especially remarkabke for a US President who has lost control of both houses of the senate after the recent midterm elections.

An Amul ad on the US mid term elections to the senate covered this development in the US political sphere.

IMG-20141107-WA0017

The delegation level bilateral discussions fed on the rapport between Modi and Obama and major breakthroughs were achieved in the fields of civilian nuclear cooperation, India’s quest for a permanent seat on the UNSC, defence cooperation and bilateral trade. If India will benefit so will the US. India will bolster the US’s case in the international strategic sphere and is also a major economic market for the US to tap.

It has taken 70 years for the world’s leading democracies to draw closer. As one commentator has aptly put “it’s the dance of the stars” that are finally fortuitously placed to allow Indo-US ties to come out of the shadows of the past. A shared China centric view, common threats in the form of global terrorism and India’s rise and potential as an economic power are the three pillars of this transforming relationship.

Pakistan and China added to the fun by behaving like a jealous couple. Pakistan sulked at being passed over by the US for arch enemy India .And China uncharacteristically betrayed its anxiety at the sudden warmth between India and the US.

In the final analysis India should remember that the US always keeps its national interests foremost and so she should never be blindsided by any personal charisma or rapport or strategic promise, but maintain a pragmatic course.It was an immensely successful visit by the POTUS and the results will definitely emerge in time.

Overall the visit was an emphatic success and tremendously choreographed.The first ever Guard of Honour by a woman officer,Wing Commander Pooja Thakur, and the first ever all women’s contingents of three services were a special legacy of the 66th Republic Day celebrations that even the Obamas will remember. 

To round up the zany side.

The media focused so intensely on the numerous hugs between the two leaders that at a point it seemed as if it was dying to identify if they weren’t “straight” !For their part the two couldn’t really keep their hands off each other either!!!

Then someone remarked how Modi upstaged Michelle Obama’s fashion tastes (???)! Mrs Obama versus Mrs Li Xinping is fine but Modi versus Michelle???? Well, this happened because NaMo consistently wore some “cool” and chic kurta’s and bandhgala suits.One which caught the eye the most had his name embroidered in vertical stripes.So much so that the observers felt he had upstaged the first lady of fashion in the world !

Amul caught on the idea and made use of the same in this well timed ad on the personalised monogrammed suits wirh the Amul girl showing off the company branding in the same style as Narendra Damodardas Modi was embroidered on the PM’s suit designed by Bipin Chauhan.

B8f5Lr5CUAAouX4

Though Amul found enough in the visit to take out four topicals, sadly it missed out one on the 66th Republic Day itself especially with its numerous and unique firsts. 

Lastly…The master stroke almost got missed out.PM Modi invited Obama and the American’s took over the security and thus Modi’s first R Day went incident free.Smart boy.For the next one lets call ISIS Chief Baghdadi.What say ?

Parting shot…Any guesses whom does the US Secret Service refer to as  Renaissance, Radiance and Rosebud in the Obama Presidential entourage 😉

POST SCRIPT 

Other than the nuclear deal it’s only the personalised monogrammed suit of Narendra Modi which has managed to retain its sheen from the not so recently ” concluded Obama visit.

The suit was associated it controversy when Modi’s opponents used it to attack his pro poor credentials.In fact the suit was seen as a factor, during the Delhi Assembly elections, in swaying voters towards the Aam Aadmi Party as it made Modi seem elitist and far removed from the underprivileged sections of the society.

However there was a clever twist in the tale when Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to auction the gifts received by him for garnering funds for the Clean Ganga Campaign.The Surat Municipal Corporation was entrusted with the responsibility.

The auction evoked derision,criticism as well as support but most of all keen interest and even keener bidding.bidding . For a total of 460 items the bid amount collected was a whopping Rs 8.33 crores with the replicas of the Statue of Liberty and the Pashupati Nath temple drawing bids of Rs 1.11 crores.

But the star attraction was “the suit” which drew 47 bids and was sold for a whopping Rs  4.31 crores. The bidding had stabilised at 1.48 crores on the second day of the auction but on the third day it sky rocketed to the final amount.The successful bid was made by Dharmandan Diamonds’ Hitesh Patel .The prized item is now gracing the reception of the diamond firm.

This Amul advertisement on the auction of Modi’s suit shows the Amul Girl looking at a display of the famous attire with a Narendra Modi mannequin donning it.A photo depicting the moment Modi wore the suit while receiving Obama completes the background to the suit and it’s claim to fame.

B-RI0nSIYAAero6

The Tag Line …And the highest coat is… a take on the high bids drawn by “the suit”.

The Punch Line …Utterly Button-ly Delicious… is a play on the famous Amul ad line.

The high bids and the cause for which the auction was held may help in blunting the damage that the suit had caused to Modi’s image but in a sense it was good fun too as never had a dress made it to the headlines in such an emphatic manner.

I for one am eagerly awaiting the China visit !

Advertisements

IPL SPOT FIXING SAGA: INDIAN CRICKET’S “WATERGATE” MOMENT !

Cricketer Sreesanth’s use of towels to spot fix during the Indian Premier League season 6 (I8PL 6) led to the biggest scandal that rocked the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as well as the IPL. Its flames engulfed Sreesanth and eventually the BCCI too. Finally, it was left to the the Supreme Court of India (SC) to resurrect the game of cricket in India. Ranbir Kapoor knows that a towel can make a career but now, BCCI President N Srinivasan’s and Sreesanth both know that it can mar careers too.

Spot fixing should have never surprised us Indians as we have been throwing hankies to reserve seats in buses and local trains, yet the IPL spot fixing incident became a major controversy and opened a Pandora’s Box for many others.

Gurunath Meiyappan, son in law of N Srinivasan and Team Principal of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) was arrested for betting and so was Raj Kundra, co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals (RR). BCCI appointed an enquiry committee but its ability to conduct a fair probe was always suspect till such time Srinivasan continued to don his twin hats as BCCI President and co-owner at CSK. Expectedly, retired judges Chowta and Subramaniam found nothing against anyone! The findings were challenged by the “unrecognized” Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) in the the Bombay High Court which annulled the enquiry findings. BCCI contested this in the SC but the latter disagreed and instead instituted its own enquiry – the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee.

And this was the turning point.

Mudgal Committee indicted Meiyappan and Kundra for betting and revealed involvement of some players too whose names were withheld. It was critical of IPL CEO, Sundar Raman for frequently communicating with a bookie. And suggested that Srinivasan be further investigated for his role in the entire matter ranging from fixing to attempted cover up. In light of the new facts the SC empowered the same committee to further investigate the matter.

The final Mudgal Committee Report was submitted in November 2014 and confirmed its findings against Meiyappan, Kundra and Sunder Raman. Meiyappan who was earlier termed as a mere “cricket enthusiast” (for enthusiastically sharing information with bookies !!!) by India cements to insulate CSK from possible termination from the IPL was confirmed to be a team official of the CSK. Srinivasan was exonerated of betting and fixing charges but not of attempted “cover up”. Some names were again withheld. Indian Captain MS Dhoni was speculatively dragged in as the mysterious Individual No 2 in the report, whom Individual No 1 (Meiyappan) frequently met to discuss team strategy of CSK and later passed the same details to betting syndicates.

A previous Amul ad on the Mudgal Committee shows a caricature depicting Justice Mudgal and the Amul Girl (as a lawyer) conferring while a player in whites is crying and holding his head in shame, which probably represents the game of cricket.

IMG-20141128-WA0018

The Tag Line , “Muh Khol Mudgal”, translates to “open your mouth” and in the light of the controversy exhorts the committee to come out in the open with all its findings. The Punch Line, subtly hints at the importance of the report as also of Amul Butter.

To take matters further, Srinivasan clearly had a conflict of interest while being BCCI President and took refuge under the BCCI’s amended rule 6.2.4 which allowed administrators running the game to have commercial interests in it as well. BCCI subsequently defended this clause unabashedly in the SC. The crude attempts to alter the status of Meiyappan to “enthusiast” and the alleged role of Dhoni and Srinivasan to support this fallacious claim exposed the entrenched interests. BCCI was also shown to be incapable and unwilling to introduce internal censure and probity and shamefully, contested the powers of the court to constitute an independent enquiry. Most glaringly, BCCI claimed immunity from the courts on the premise that it was a private society and not a public body hence its governing rules were not under the law of the land!

N Srinivasan was exposed as a megalomaniac intent on protecting his interests. Repulsively, Srinivasan wanted to investigate CSK, Meiyappan and others as BCCI President itself when he had such obvious conflict of interest. He fought tooth and nail to prove that he had none and with each assertion exposed himself further.

In spite of the SC’s suggestion, Srinivasan refused to step down as BCCI President to allow for a fair probe. This disgusting scenario presented the bookies with “windfall gains” as they were now betting on Srinivasan’s “would he, wont he” until the SC forced him out. It seems Srinivasan had imbibed the properties of the product being sold by his company India Cements. Luckily it doesn’t sell adhesives like Araldite or Fevicol in addition to the cement!!!

The AGM of the BCCI to elect new office bearers was also postponed by the SC beyond the present term which ended in September 2014, as it felt that the findings of the Mudgal Committee needed to be taken to their logical conclusion. Nauseatingly, Srinivasan still sought reinstatement as BCCI President, much after his official term had already expired. BCCI insisted that it will constitute its own “ethics commission” to implement remedial measures against those found indicted! This was but a vacuous claim which found no favour with SC. To accentuate the competing interests in the India’s cricket administration set up, ex IPL czar Lalit Modi admitted financing the “unrecognized” CAB (all cricket enthusiasts) in its fight against the BCCI and Srinivasan.

Consequent to the filing of the final report, marathon hearings were conducted in the SC during November / December 2014 in which the issue of conflict of interest haunted Srinivasan.Finally, in its January 2015 verdict, the SC endorsed the Mudgal Committees findings against Meiyappan, Kundra and Sunder Rajan. It found CSK and RR guilty of misconduct on the basis of the actions of its officials and owners. It exonerated Srinivasan of “cover up” charges but only for lack of evidence. And most importantly ruled that he had a conflict of interest and struck down the pernicious and contentious clause 6.2.4 of the BCCI. It also barred individuals with commercial interest in cricket from holding a position in the BCCI. And directed that if Srinivasan wanted to contest elections he would have to give up his stake in CSK.

The SC also set up a separate panel under retired CJI, RS Lodha to introduce transparency and accountability in the functioning of the BCCI to help it to gain “institutional integrity”. It will formulate rules to streamline issues of conflict of interest, to stipulate guidelines for the conduct of elections and for any other measure deemed fit for the functioning of the BCCI. It shall also finalise the punishment for the guilty in the entire IPL spot fixing fiasco.The recommendations of the panel shall be binding on the BCCI.

By this the SC has settled the insidious claim that BCCI wasn’t under the jurisdiction of the courts for once and for all. It’s shameful that it fell upon the SC to clean up the BCCI’s mess and to restore the public’s faith in the game. Hopefully this hiding will transform the moral landscape of the hitherto fore opaque and unscrupulous functioning of the BCCI.

This Amul ad profiles the post SC verdict scenario facing N Srinivasan. A caricature depicting him,replete with his trademark red teeka,  is weighing his options with a white flanelled cricketer representing Indian Cricket ,probably Virat Kohli and a yellow flannelled cricketer representing CSK,probably MS Dhoni, forming two sides of a balance.The Amul girl is missing from this piece.

amul-hits-1983

The Tag Line... Board? Cement? Chennai? India?  ..with initial capitals in red is a play on the Hobson’s choice imposed on Srinivasan regarding contesting elections to the BCCI.He will have to choose and choose he must.

The Punch Line Chairman of Butters endorses the Amul product line and is a veiled hint at the President’s job at stake in the BCCI.

This strip is rightly about N Srinivasan, as eventually it was he who stood between the BCCI and efforts to restore faith and probity in the game.

The verdict of the SC has triggered the fall of the most powerful BCCI President ever, just like it happened for Richard Nixon in the Watergate Scandal, and even that started with a cover up of sorts which was never proven! Like Watergate, it is proven that no one is above the law. Power could neither save President Nixon nor Srinivasan. And lastly, akin to Watergate, sports administrators will now value judicious conduct and avoid being brazen and arrogant

But what a paradox that all the trouble was taken to investigate betting in cricket, a game which commences with betting itself – the toss of the coin.

And btw you can make a career without a towel too. Ask Sunny Leone!

28th February 15;N Srinivasan has tendered unconditional apology to the SC for presiding over the working committee meet of the BCCI in spite of the apex court order of 22 Jan 15 ,specifically barring him from doing so.Srinivasan has expressed regret by saying that he misunderstood the order and “went by its letter and not spirit”.

Accepting the apology the SC allowed Srinivasan to attend the AGM meeting of the BCCI on 2nd Mar 15 and cast the vote as the representative of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association  (TNCA) for the election of the BCCI President.Had Srinivasan not apologised he would have lost stake in the crucial elections.Though barred from any administrative appointment in the BCCI he has substantial interests in BCCI and the IPL and would like to have retain de facto influence over the cash rich cricket body.

2nd March 15; Jagmohan Dalmiya made a remarkable comeback as the BCCI President,ten years after he was banished from the organisation over embezzlement charges.He had sensed an opportunity when Srinivasan was barred from contesting by the SC and went on to successfully lobby for himself as the consensus candidate of all factions including the Sharad Pawar and the Srinivasan group.

This speaks volumes about Dalmiya’s propensity for manoeuvre as also the lure of the post as all factions now have managed to protect their interests and secure their slice of the pie by having a common candidate .

Dalmiya’s comeback is remarkable as he was.once a pariah and today the same organisation has elected him unopposed.This also sends signals about the fact that the satraps in the BCCI have no intention of letting their grip loosen over its affairs as also that they will try every  trick in the trade to protect and perpetuate their interests.Election of a 74 year old corruption tainted well entrenched man doesn’t bode well for the future of cricket administration especially when the BCCI considers itself above the law of the land.

Power…money…politics…

It’s in this backdrop that the Justice Lodha commission has to suggest measures for reforms in  the BCCI.And the work of this committee now becomes ever more crucial.

CHARLIE HEBDO MASSACARE: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD !

7th January 2015,Paris; 13 people lay dead after two gunmen had attacked the office of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and massacred members of the Charlie Hebdo editorial team as well as its top caricaturists. Shouting “Allahu Akbar” the assailants triumphantly left the building and claimed that the Prophet Mohammad was avenged and that Islam was safe again.

Paris continued to reel under Islamic terror when four more were killed in a hostage situation in a Kosher (Jewish) Supermarket. The hostage taker, Amedy Coulibaly (who claimed allegiance to the ISIS), was gunned down as also the two out of the three Charlie Hebdo assailants, Algerian brothers Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi (al Qaeda). The third, Hamyd Masoud surrendered. The French Government suspected an international conspiracy behind the three day carnage. Eventually the Al Qaeda In Yemen (AQIY) took responsibility for the attacks on Charlie Hebdo.

What provoked the carnage? The answer contains uncomfortable truths for the victims as well as the perpetrators.

Charlie Hebdo started in 1970 after its predecessor the “Hara Kiri” was banned for mocking the death of ex-President Charles de Gaulle. It remained out of print from 1981 till ’92 when it was resurrected by the efforts of François Cavanna (editor 1969 – 1981),Phillipe Val (editor 1992 – 2011). The magazine is irreverent, satirical, provocative and non-conformist while dealing with religion and French politics. Its editor Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb), who was killed by the gunmen, had once described the magazine’s positions as left-wing, secular, and atheist. It has caused maximum controversy when covering religion, particularly in the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed.

In 2006, it provoked protests when it featured a weeping Mohammed with the headline “Mohammed Overwhelmed by Fundamentalism.” And also featured reprinted cartoons from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that caricatured the Prophet.In 2007, it again caused furore when it published cartoons of Mohammad carrying a bomb in his turban. In 2010,it supported France’s “burqa ban” through the caricature of a naked woman. In 2011, its offices were fire bombed when a Charlie Hebdo edition supposedly “guest edited” by Mohammad was taken out with a Mohammad cartoon announcing “100 lashes of the whip if you don’t die laughing” and titled Charia Hebdo (a refence to Sharia Law).

In response – the magazine published the cartoon of a Muslim man kissing a cartoonist !

In 2012, an edition had a cover showing an orthodox Jewish Man pushing a Muslim man in a wheel chair and titled “Intouchables 2” a spoof on a French movie “Intouchbles”.It also carried a spoof on the malicious, divisive and globally decried Islamophobic internet movie “Innocence of Muslims”, by depicting a naked Mohammad in pornographic positions! This was done against the advise of the French government.

The editors reacted to Muslim chagrin by saying that the fire bombers were “stupid people”, that the magazine conforms to French free speech laws and not Koranic and that they could be least bothered about the reactions or laws of Kabul and Riyadh. They admitted that they were against religion but depicted the Prophet especially to provoke and shame.

And provoke they did.

The Amul ad depicts the carnage in Paris.The Eiffel Tower is almost falling over under the onslaught of extremists with storm clouds gathering and paper, ostensibly depicting drawing sheets, strewn all around. The Amul Girl is shown as defending free speech with a drawing pencil in one hand and a paint brush in the other.

IMG-20150109-WA0027

The Tag LineParis Is Reeling…is a statement on the unprecedented attacks in Paris and the “IS IS” in red is a play on the suspected role of the Islamic fundamentalist movement Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This is an incomplete representation as the two main suspects had announced allegiance to al Qaeda.

Secularism is the de facto official religion in France. Inasmuch that the French have twice imprisoned recalcitrant Popes in 1798 and 1809 who tried to resist the Revolution. In 1905 the French Third Republic decreed the separation of the church and the state to ensure Freedom of Thought. This entailed strict official neutrality known as laïcité – absence of religious involvement in government affairs and vice versa.

French Identity is essentially non ethnic and non-religious and is now under strain due to the immigration of people of colour and multi ethnic identities from the former colonies. It’s in this backdrop that the Charlie Hebdo editorial line is to be seen.

Strictly secular, Charlie Hebdo swore to safeguard laïcité. It had subsumed for itself the right to equally offend all, also known as – equal opportunity blasphemy- with irreverence. It intended to subject to brutal interrogation, any self-sanctified institution especially religion. It aimed at making humorous attacks so common on the most sensitive issues and concepts that these would get defanged and lose their control and illogical hold on the people. Charb was loathe to self-censor and would never indulge in appeasement of a group or two at the cost of his core ideals.

This courageous editorial underpinning put Charlie Hebdo on a path of direct conflict with the six million Muslim immigrants of France and the extremists within them. These are the most disenfranchised ethnic grouping who have also felt targeted by the government especially when the latter banned head scarves and veils. Charlie Hebdo demonstrated a strange naiveté when it ventured into these troubled waters upholding laïcité but ignoring the transforming ethnic realities of France. Its irreverent and offensive attack on the most sacred entity for the Muslims – Prophet Mohammad- was seen as racial and humiliating by a marginalized ethnic grouping. These caricatures thus became the catalyst for the inevitable outburst of a suppressed and discriminated minority made to feel unwelcome in France. And resulted in a senseless carnage leading to the death of 17 people.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the younger generation is a failure of the French State especially when the original immigrants assimilated so well that they are at the forefront of the voices against extremism. The French need to accept the changing paradigm of the ethnic composition of France. Marginalisation breeds a pronounced sense of identity and leads to overt display of religious symbols and beliefs which cannot be stemmed by stringent laws alone. Without serious thought being given to the root causes of alienation the next incident too should be round the corner as Charlie Hebdo has responded to the massacre by publishing yet another Mohammad Cartoon with the latter holding the “Je suis Charlie” placard and saying “ all is forgiven”.

The Muslims too need to introspect as to why is that when Charlie Hebdo depicted the Pope with a condom, Marie Le Pen shaving pubic hair and Michael Jackson as a skeleton immediately after his death that none of the groups resorted to large scale protests, fire bombings, shootings, executions and hostage taking? Free speech is a modern concept which is far removed from Islamic tenets and is a cherished value of the Western nations. Such blatant attacks will lead to nations reacting in a manner which will threaten to further exclude the Muslim community and typecast them .If the Muslims aspire for a better life as immigrants then they must assimilate and learn and develop tolerance and shun extremism.Western nations too must ensure that the right to offend is moderated.

Muslims also need to give serious thought and voice to the demands for reform in Islam keeping in mind the changes in the 1400 years since the compilation of the Holy Koran.It is not their belief which is coming in the way of assimilation but the manner of interpreting the teachings of the Prophet and the  Koran.

There is a lesson for us Indians too especially in the backdrop of the protests against the Aamir Khan starrer -PK. Extremists all over the world speak the same language of intimidation when they want to subvert free thought.And they need to be resisted. And the rabid protestor could also be reminded that if he feels belittled by the depiction of certain practices and concepts which have crept into the Hindu religion then why doesn’t he protest about these practices too while demanding limits on free speech.

Charlie Hebdo and the ones who died represent the “mockingbird” – who never harms us but sings its heart out for us.And to kill a mockingbird, is to kill something innocent and harmless that too when the devil is within us. To quote from the famous novel by Harper Lee “when they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things … Atticus, he was real nice,” to which he responds, “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

CONVERSION CHARADES:STUPIDITY IS A GIFT OF GOD TOO..LETS NOT MISUSE IT.

Religion is “the opium of the masses” – these words of Karl Marx perfectly explain why our polity would choose dogma over progress. Religion has been unabashedly exploited in India by the British and this continues unabated even now. It seems God too is fond of jokes, and he played one on us by making us the people that we are – helpless against our own failings!

In December 2014, Dharam Jagran Samiti (DJS), carried out the reconversion of some muslims into Hinduism in the city of Agra. It turned out to be a fiasco as the affected individuals, all rag pickers, declared that they had been duped into forsaking their faith and allurements such as BPL cards, Aadhar cards and entitlement to government housing were used in the attempted subversion of their faith. DJS , however denied the allegations and claimed the activity to be voluntary.

Matters weren’t helped further when plans for a slew of such events, termed “ghar wapsi” (homecoming),came to light and other right wing Hindu organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal announced plans for unprecedented number of reconversion to Hinduism in diverse places such as Aligarh, Rae Bareilly, Kerala, Goa, Bihar and elsewhere.

These reconversions were justified by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) on the ground that the ancestors of the Christians and Muslims of India were essentially Hindu and had been converted under coercion and now that the conditions had changed, the present generation was merely making a “homecoming”.

The opposition parties, were till now like a hapless boxer who didn’t even have his shorts on let alone the gloves, suddenly found themselves with an agenda to throw punches at the Modi government.

Meanwhile minority organsations rushed “task forces” to areas where the planned reconversion was likely to take place to help people keep the faith (why were they losing it in the first place?). Emergency symposiums were also conducted by them to keep their “flock together”.

The BJP government was accused of not reining in the Hindu organisatons and the opposition demanded that the PM make a statement in the Parliament to reassure the minorities. The PM did not oblige and instead the BJP asked the opposition parties to support a National Anti-Conversion law to ban all conversions completely. This led to a deadlock and the combined opposition stalled all legislative activities.

Dance of Democracy indeed !

The Amul Ad deals with the Conversion Controversy.The Amul Girl dressed as a chef, with caricatures depicting a Sikh and Tamil Brahmin and serving generous dollops of the “yellow delight” on platters of Parantha (Indian Bread) and Idli, Dosa and Sambhar respectively. The strip attempts to showcase the regional diversity of India.

conversion

The Tag Line…..Easy To Convert To… hints at the complexities of the conversion conundrum by using the Amul butter as a medium. The line extols the pan India acceptance of the product and that it adds taste to any regional cuisine.

The Punch Line…Aapsi Mein Baato..is a play on the term “ghar wapsi” and literally translates into “equally distributing amongst all” implying that the product be consumed as widely as possible.

Religious conversion has been a sensitive issue in India due to the legacy of forced conversion of Hindus to Islam by various Muslim rulers and the proselytizing carried out by the Christian missionaries. Princely states had anti conversion laws specifically directed against conversion to Christianity. British India though did not have any such law and for obvious reasons.

Post-independence the Indian Constitution recognizes, in Article 25(1), that “all persons” are free to “profess, practice, propogate freely” the religion of their choice. The Supreme Court of India has ruled that the right to propogate be not confused with the right to convert and has also empowered states to enact Freedom of Religion laws to deal with forced conversion related issues. States of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh ,Tamil Nadu and Chattisgarh have all enacted such laws right from the 60s upto now which make forced conversions a cognizable offence under the sections 295 and 298 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Also, while law prohibits conversion, `reconversion’ of low caste Hindus is permissible.

The above mentioned laws are seen to be aimed at keeping the low caste Hindus within the folds of Hinduism in the face of socially demeaning practices. Since most of the low caste Hindus are at the lowest rung of the society they are succeptible to coercion as well as allurements. Christian Missionaries have been regularly accused of proselytizing in the garb of providing relief during disasters or while spreading literacy and providing medical care.

Interestingly, though Islam and Christianity do not claim to have a hierarchical strata, yet in India these faiths too follow a caste system! At times converted Christians are discriminated against based on their erstwhile Hindu   caste ! The Hindu organisations have declared that all reconverted Hindus will be free to choose their new castes !This is an impossibility in Hinduism at the same time it’s a fantastic allure keeping in mind the sops and reservations available to low caste Hindus in jobs and education.

To those who fight over religion, I ask is there a perfect religion worth fighting over?

The Bible has improbabilities such as talking snakes and bushes ! Ask a dad about his belief in the story of the Virgin Mary if it is to be applied on his daughter? And how come Noah found Penguins and Polar Bears in Palestine??? (Where was the North Pole back then??)

Even in Islam the Quran is said to contain fables already existing at the time which have been presented as the “word of God” to the Prophet Mohammad.

Perfect religion?

A word about our politicians. The opposition came across as “pseudo secularists” when they do not complain against any incident of forced conversion of Hindus coming to light. Also they balked at the idea of a National Anti-Conversion law not on the grounds of constitutionality (as the constitution guarantees freedom of religion) but offered obfuscated logic to try and hold on to THEIR “flock of voters”.

I also ask the Indian National Congress (INC) or the “Janata Parivaar” that which PM of India has made a statement since 1947 to reassure the Hindu community when cases of forced or coerced conversion at the hand of Christian Missionaries have come to light? Then why such blatant vote bank politics at the cost of governance and development? Let religion be in the absolute background.

The ruling combine needs to be faulted for not nipping the menace in the bud and letting the Winter Session go down the drain.Also, could not the PM have addressed the people of this Country through any medium to instil confidence in his governments commitment towards secularism and secondly to defeat the opposition’s banal tactics?

Its time we got on with governance and development as even as I write there are millions sleeping on the roadside in the bitter cold, who have also gone hungry and will squat in the open tomorrow morning and have no way of ensuring that their children can avoid this fate.

Religion after all is the opium of the masses. Is it?

Btw the Bible does contains much that is relevant today, like Noah taking 40 days to find a parking spot !

MORAL POLICING: MUCH ADO ABOUT A KISS WHILE THE PISS GETS THE MISS !

If Indian Culture is under imminent threat follow these simple steps to render it invulnerable -shout obscenities, slap randomly, smash windows and time it for the TV cameras! And to share a secret, the easiest to prey upon are young couples confused between love and hormones. But beware, sometimes the hunter becomes the hunted and its even more bizarre when the weapon used is a mere “Kiss of Love”.

In end October 2014, Downtown Café in Khozikode,Kerela was vandalised and ransacked by members of the Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha (BJYM) for allegedly “facilitating immoral activities” by its young patrons. This was after Jai Hind TV telecast a programme about the alleged “immoral activities”.Interestingly the entire drama unfolded in front of the cameras and yet BJYM goons managed to evade arrest.

This incident led to the Free Thinkers group and others organizing a “kiss of love” protest against the “moral police” and its wanton and unrestrained hooliganism.Promptly a Facebook page came up and exhorted people to defy moral policing by locking lips at the Marine Drive on Kochi on the 2nd of November! Soon there was furore all over. The Shiv Sena,like all extremists painted a grim and murky picture when it  bizarrely predicted that the “Kiss of Love” protests would lead to “sexual anarchy” (what does this mean) and a renewed and more virulent form of “love jihad”.The battle lines were drawn and the stage was now set for a “kiss-ectrfying”  protest day.

On the anointed day, some protestors did managed to lock their lips (same sex also). Most of them though may have actually bitten each other because of the attendant chaos caused by throngs of yet-to-kiss-for-the-first-tine onlookers and i-am-jealous-of-your-girlfriend type goons of the “morchas”! Pandemonium reigned as the goons wanted to hurl the “kissers” into the sea, the “kissers” wanted to keep kissing as life had never been so good and the Police did what they are good at – baton charged, broke up the crowds, arrested the kissers and let the “morcha” hooligans go.Like always.

The fire spread to all corners of India and in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi similar protests were organized. The media focused only on the kissing and invented a “kiss counter” which did not miss out on a single “kiss” whatever be the level of chaos taking place. Inadvertent fights too broke out and the Police did what they had in Kochi.

In spite of the “kissers” endangering themselves for a seemingly just cause, opinion was largely divided on the issue of the propriety of the form of protest and it did deflect attention from the moot issue -the “heckler’s veto” which is being exercised by the “moral police” and leading to infringement of liberty and fundamental rights as well.

This Amul ad captured the dominant national controversy of the time. It shows a love struck couple sitting on a bench poised to kiss, though appearing to do it on butter draped slices. The “moral police” is depicted by a caricature holding a placard and remonstrating angrily with the couple. A camera holding caricature represents the over zealous media. The Amul Girl is shown separating the “kissers and the morchas”.

kiss of love

The Tag LineKiss Power Ya Uss Paar..is a play on the protest titled the “Kiss of Love” and a popular hindi proverb “is paar ya us paar” which urges people to make a decisive choice which in this case is either for supporting the “kiss of love” or not supporting it and bringing to fore the question of propriety of the chosen form.

The Punch Line..Lipsmakhan Taste... is a subtle play on the lips and kiss and is spin off of the English term Lipsmacking Taste, which simply implies that the Amul butter has an amazing taste.

The “Kiss of Love” protest was not a knee jerk reaction to the Downtown Café incident, but a pent up reaction to a series of instances of moral policing in Kerala. So , though, the idea of a protest received wide spread support but a call to openly kiss did not receive the same kind of acceptance. It appeared that some took it as a right for indulging in “in your face” public display of affection which irked the majority sentiment. Call it false morality or what you may, most of us are not comfortable with “lolling tongues” and drooling couples in our vicinity. Even Bollywood used embracing flowers or a raging fire to depict the “ultimate expression of love ” (or lust). In a country where Emraan Hashmi movies were considered soft porn, accepting lip locks as a form of public protest was a tad too much to accept. Most related it with their own children and disapproved of the form.

This is where the protest lost its zing and instead struggled for its own legitimacy.

It is well understood that protests need to be innovative to have an impact but the organisers got the form wrong. The focus should have been on the over reach of the “morchas” instead it became an effort towards making maximum lip locks possible with leery on lookers assembling for a free show.Women protestors being chased by hoodlums seeking “kisses of love” totally queered the pitch and the accompanying obscenities was totally avoidable.

Another aspect is that the Police never really arrested the hooligans indulging in violence at the protest venues but preemptively arrested the protestors on the pretext of maintaining public order as the yet-to-be-planted-kiss could invite an imaginary sucker punch from a real hoodlum present in the gathering. So who is a threat to public order? The real hoodlum or the hypothetical kisser?

Also while our “moral police” raves and rants about women’s hem lines and kissing in public it is conspicuously quiet about “pissing in public” .Why? Isn’t it obscene and unIndian? And while women are blamed for getting raped because of their dress where is the moral police when the need for community policing arises?

The Central Government maintained a studied silence and got blamed for soft pedaling on the issue of the “morchas” due to its own umbilical linkages with the Rashtriya Swamsewak Sangh (RSS). This will only encourage the obscurantist groups to try and apportion more and more of the social landscape and one fine day we will be like Pakistan.

“Kiss of Love” protests were an eye opener and a definitive moment when some amongst us tried to push back the tide of rising moral policing. Only that it got waylaid out of exuberance but still managed to leave a “bite” on the moral police’s hips. Vigilante groups have no sanction under law and they should be restrained at all costs. If they have a problem with a particular behavior then like all law abiding citizens they should approach the courts and not run riot.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner let’s get serious about getting the “morcha types” girlfriends as this will keep them away from smashing windows and chasing couples. Otherwise be prepared for a sucker punch heading your way and also ending up spending the night in a lock up while the “puncher” keeps counting his hits.