(outragistan, is a somewhat popular word on social networks – the author did not coin it, but thanks whoever did).
In the last month, the nation, propelled by the ever increasing shrillness of 24 hour news channels, aided by the ever more intransigent nature of protestors, lurched from outrage to outrage. It began with outrage on Yoyo Honey Singh’s concert –making him a household name. The protests had an effect of getting his New Year concert cancelled, but as compensation he became so known, that he was on national television as a featured performer in the finals of a music talent show. Then this was followed by outrage on misogynist statements by relatively obscure political personalities, giving them the kind of publicity that money cannot buy. But the price of this was public haranguing on TV till they apologised. Then there were protests on Ashish Nandy’s statements, followed up by a FIR under the SC/ST Act; outrage on Shah Rukh Khan’s article followed by a lengthy explanation; right wing protests on Pakistani authors visiting the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), that led some to cancel; potential rage on Salman Rushdie visiting Kolkata that led the Mamata Banerjee Government to prevent him. And finally protests by some Muslim organisations in Tamil Nadu against Kamal Hassan’s new Tamil Film Vishwaroopam – which has taken a life of its own.
Just as a cycle of protest and outrage dies out, a new cycle of protest and outrage began, the previous outrage forgotten. It is almost as though this has become the Republic of Outragistan. Ask those protesting about what they are protesting about – and they will tell you in all earnestness – against an insult to xyz (where xyz could be religion, language, culture, nation, hero, sentiments, feelings). Most have not even interacted with the objects of their outrage.
Goethe, the German author, poet and dramatist, observed that the “There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance.” It is a quote that comes to mind every time there are protests about books, authors, paintings, films, music – in short ideas and concepts. Most who protest have neither read, nor seen, nor experienced the object of their outrage. They believe that the idea has profaned what they hold in great esteem. And, they think, therefore, that they have the right to silence this ‘offending’ view so that no one gets to experience it. John Stuart Mill, in his seminal work “On Liberty” (1859), termed this behaviour of wanting to silence a particular view, as evil. He said “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error”. In India, Evil of this nature is triumphant time and again. Opinion is getting stifled, creativity is being suffocated and intellectual and personal liberty are on the line. Organisations with political backing stop couples from cuddling, women from smoking and drinking, films from being released, books from being sold, essays from being taught, paintings from being viewed with rich political dividends. Instead of being arrested for breaching the peace, cultural vigilantes call the shots.
As author Salman Rushdie, no stranger to censorship and an attempt to muzzle his right to express, points out – there is a “cultural emergency” in India , that allows mobs to disrupt the work of artists, writers and film makers. Censorship is being applied in the name of maintaining law and order. And, herein lies the crux of the matter. Law and order cannot be maintained by kowtowing to outrage. Nor is it by giving into the threat of violence. Law and Order is maintained by protecting the rights of the individual against the ire and rage of a group. The more various governments give in, the more they encourage the politics of competitive disruption of society and the attempt to stifle voices. John Stuart Mills puts in words that resonate even today – If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind (On Liberty, 1859). In India, the concept of freedom has to move away from placating groups that claim to be offended, to protecting individuals who have the right to offend. That will be the test of Democracy.
Justice JS Verma speaks during a press conference after submitting his committee’s report to the government in New Delhi on Wednesday. The committee was set up to recommend measures to improve laws dealing with sexual offences. Committee member Justice Leela Seth is also seen. PTI Photo
a) A Diagnostic level – what is wrong with State and Society. This includes looking at patriarchy, the issue of attitudes towards women that are borne by family, and society and the violence perpetuated on women and says,
these are practices which are being tolerated by a society ostensibly wedded to the rule of law. (pg.1, point 1)
It also looks at the State and it is inability to ensure that women are safe. It admonishes the Government to say that, taking all other things into consideration,
Failure of good governance is the obvious root cause for the current unsafe environment eroding the rule of law, and not the want of needed legislation.(preface, point 3)
on attitudes of public servants, for example in the Bhanwari Devi case, it says
trial court acquitted the accused observing that the rapists were middle-aged and respectable persons of a higher caste who could not have raped a lower caste woman. (pg 14, point 32)
b) A Prescriptive Level – it looks at what can be done to improve both society and State, and penalties for breach of law. This looks at Violence towards women in a more comprehensive manner. It recognizes that
Sexual assault degenerates to its gravest form of rape beginning with uncontrolled sexual harassment in milder forms, which remain uncontrolled. It has, therefore, to be curbed at the initial stage. (page 18, point 40)
In addition to more severe punishment for stalking, voyeurism, ‘eve-teasing’ & unsolicited sexual contact as well rape, the report calls for an attitudinal change brought about by Education – be it sex education at school levels or
Education to correct gender bias and to cure the mindset of the prejudices influencing the law enforcement agencies has also to be a part of this exercise. (pg.15, point 33)
The prescriptions do not call for the Death Penalty but has provisions for longer sentences – a minimum of 10 years served to life. Furthermore,
We …recommend a legislative clarification that life imprisonment must always mean imprisonment for ‘the entire natural life of the convict. (pg. 239, pt. 15)
The prescriptions also look at a variety of issues that had, hitherto not been addressed – Marital rape , waiver of immunity on the rape by members of the armed forces , Sex Education in schools, or curtailing the power of the Khaps, as well as calling on elected members of various legislatures and Parliament to resign if they have sexual assault cases registered against them. It also recognizes the rape of men
Since the possibility of sexual assault on men, as well as homosexual,transgender and transsexual rape, is a reality the provisions have to be cognizant of the same.
The prescriptions also calls for the implementation of Police Reforms and the freeing up of police and judiciary from Government control, and faster trials
Speedy justice is not merely an aspect of the right to life with dignity, but is essential for efficacy of the law and its desired impact, as well as for prevention of its violation. (pg. 411, pt. 2)
It also looks the smaller improvements that can make life better – Street lighting, for example
c) A Normative level – that lays down a Bill of Rights for Women, for society to aspire towards. It starts by stating that
Every woman shall be entitled to respect for her life and the integrity and security of her person. All forms of violence, exploitation, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment targeting women are prohibited (pg. 429, pt 1)
And goes on to unveil some of the most egalitarian sentiments in terms of Life, Security, Equality, Democracy and Secured Spaces.
While the diagnosis is spot on, the prescription is great, the future path brilliant – there is a small problem. And that is implementation.
There is a gap between intention and action – and that gap is the political will needed to get sweeping changes like this passed. Take something as simple as Sex Education in schools -it ought to be a no-brainer in a country with a burgeoning population and a rising school numbers. But deep rooted conservatism have allowed the agenda on sex education to be convertedinto a debate on cultural values. Police Reforms have been on the anvil for just about ever, the issue as far as police reforms are simple – politicians do not want to give up direct power over the police. Similarly, calls to arrest armed forces personnel for sexual assaults have been going on for the last few decades.Everyone knows that the Khaps need to be curtailed, but when elected members of Parliament depend on the khapsto mobilize votes on election day, it becomes an uphill task. The measures that are recommended require the stepping on too many toes simultaneously. There are just too many holy cows that need to be addressed to ensure that women’s rights are upheld, and too many interested parties who are willing to fight to ensure that they protect their turf.
What would probably help in ensuring that the Verma Committee Recommendations come to pass, is a time line of goals to be achieved. Step by step, goal by goal these need to be addressed and attained. Break down the report into achievable goals, and start achieving them one by one. Understand which are going to genuinely create a just and equal society, and which are well intentioned but unimplementable suggestions. Also some suggestions may require more time and deliberation than others. To try and get all that is recommended on day 1 is setting everyone up for disappointment. Pick your battles, overcome those hurdles, and move to the next one. Hopefully, one day – not too long from today – the good intentions of the whole report will become reality. Till then, all that we can do is keep trying.
Bites the hand that feeds him – screamed the headline on Firstpost.in on Shah Rukh Khan, reminding me of Sholay. Had discussed the film with my class this morning, and the film was kind of fresh. The introductury scene of Gabbar, he is ranting at his 3 men for losing to those two. In the most chilling part of the scene – Gabbar pulls out a gun and plays Russian Roulette with his defeated men. He asks of one of them (Kalia)
“ab tera kya hoga kalia?”
This entire concept of namak khana, biting the hand that feeds them – is so incredibly – how does one put this nicely ? – feudal.
The fact that the author loathes SRK is fairly evident, what is more is that this loathing seems to have overcome any half decent form of accuracy. Hey, i know opinion pieces are meant to be opinion, but even opinion is based on a modicum of fact. Some samples :
More importantly, he was embraced by a generation of Indians who were evidently so swayed by his looks (or whatever else they saw in him) that they readily overlooked his vacuous performances, blessed him with fame and fortune – and even went on to crown him ‘King Khan’.
(embraced across generations – not preteens anymore – but pretty much the rest, and especially women)
At the peak of his career, Shah Rukh was spoken of in the same breath as the Shahenshah of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan. That comparison may have been valid in terms of the box-office appeal that both held, but a certain indefinable element of classy refinement that Bachchan exuded even when the cameras were not whirring remained forever out of reach of SRK.
subjective – and therefore one will not comment on it. biases are allowed. I have mine, am sure the author has his. Except that in the last year – SRK was the highest earner in Bollywood, not someone past the peak of his career.
In his eternal quest to be the ageless Peter Pan of Bollywood, Shah Rukh appears not to have come to terms with the fact that while once he may have commanded a forgiving fan following, he is well past his prime. Like the Norma Desmond character that Gloria Swanson essayed in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, he is only clinging on to the memories of a happier day when the arclights were turned on him and the adulation of fans enveloped him in a warm, glowing embrace.
good lord, this person obviously neither watches Hindi films nor follows box office reports. Norma Desmond, incidentally, is the lead character in Sunset Boulevard, a silent era star, and who, in the film, hasn’t been seen since the coming of sound. SRK’s last film – the unintentionally funny – Jab Tak Hai Jaan – was one of the 8 filmsthat crossed the 100 crore mark in theatrical revenue in India & twice that in overseas territories- (that means that many tickets were sold).
So, by every verifiable metric, it’s fair to say that Shah Rukh Khan has enjoyed more success – and earned more fame and fortune and fan-love – than he arguably deserves. Which is why it’s difficult to account for the victimhood chip – rooted in his identity as a Muslim – that he bears on his shoulders.
Who decides who deserves what ? He doesn’t deserve this on what parameter ? Has the author seen other super stars – desi and hollywood and their performances ? Does a Tom Cruise deserve success ? Superstars bring people to the theaters, they create value all down the value chain.
And, the author’s grouse :
In an interview that he gave to an overseas publication, Shah Rukh Khan is quoted as saying that he “sometimes become(s) the indvertent object of political leaders who choose to make me a symbol of all that they think is wrong and unpatriotic about Muslims in India.”
Now, which part of inadvertentdoes the author want explained ?
this is a translated version of what was written in Samnaafter SRK suggested that Pakistani cricketers play in the IPL (for the record, i don’t support that or indeed them being cast in films or tv shows)
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Saturday said Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner Shah Rukh Khan should be given Pakistan’s highest civilian award, the Nishaan-e-Pakistan, for supporting the inclusion of Pakistani cricketers in the IPL.
Thackeray said in his party mouthpiece Samna that the ‘Khan’ inside Shah Rukh Khan must be crushed by the ‘Har Har Mahadev’ war cry.
The author goes on
It’s true, of course, that your films have had their problems with Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, who kicked up a shindig by protesting against your film My Name Is Khan on specious grounds.
The Shiv Sena did not have a problem with the film “My Name is Khan”, they had a problem with SRK statement regarding IPL and wanted to take it out on My Name is Khan in retaliation (btw i have seen the film and it is mawkishly sentimental) And this is what SRK said , that got him into trouble
“They are the champions, they are wonderful but somewhere down the line there is an issue and we can’t deny it. We are known to invite everyone. We should have. If there were any issues, they should have been put on board earlier. Everything can happen respectfully,”
And, incidentally this is what Shilpa Shetty (another team owner, whose name is not Khan) had to say about the same issue:
“If you ask an Indian whether he would like to see Shahid Afridi play in our country, he would say yes. But you must look at it pragmatically and see that we have had these people who are constantly threatening.It’s not something we hold against the Pakistani players. We completely understand the situation but as franchise owners are we willing to take that risk? If something happens to the Pakistani players, the onus lies on us and who is going to take responsibility for a situation like that,”
And this is what Preity Zinta (another team owner, whose name is also not Khan) had to say about the Pakistani Players in IPL
”We would have loved to have the T20 world champions in our teams to bring real joy to the extravaganza but what can we do if we have certain threats about not only our own safety, but the safety of the Pakistani players too, with no official quarter assuring us of foolproof security of players during the tournament,’
Therefore, given the same event IPL, to be held post 26/11, with three star owned teams – if you eliminate all other factors – the only one left is that they picked on SRK because he is a Muslim. (it could also be because he is a man, but i dont think that he SS would eliminate 50%+ of their voters)
And it continues,
So, grow up, Shah Rukh, and learn to take it on the chin like a man. Don’t bite the hand that fed you – and made you who you are – by running off to an overseas publication and crying your heart out, thereby providing the space for low-life terrorists like Hafiz Saeed to take potshots at India.
On SRK Being resposnible for Hafeez Saeed’scomments, it would be good to read the whole piece and figure where that comment came from. I daresay it was from mangled headlines from the MSM. In which case, i wonder who is responsible for Hafeez Saeed’s comments. Also, what is this with treating Hafeez Saeed’s statement as being important, instead of dealing with it with the contempt it deserves – what do people expect from Hafeez Saeed - Kudos for India?
On his being inebriated and badly behaved – sure – he is human. And,a flawed one at that. Where he attacks people who cannot fight back – like the security guard in Wankhade, please take him to task. When it is with other, equally successful, members of the film industry, let them sort it out.
I can criticize India, the armed forces, decisions on hanging terrorists or not, Pakistani Players or actors in India, peace with Pakistan and the rest of it – and not once (mabye once) there will be calls for me to move next door. People may question my logic, my intellect, my wisdom, my credentials – but not my right to be in India and make those comments. SRK has those rights too. He is a citizen and like all citizens has the right to critcize the system without having to prove his love for the country every time he does so.
Finally this is neither about the Indian state, nor the people of India, nor the great Indian paying audience – couldn’t care who was what religion so long as they sell tickets. It is not even about political parties, apart from those like the Shiv Sena – whose stock in trade this is. People from across the political spectrum came out to support SRK, when the Shiv Sena went on that blistering attack on him.
“We do not consider it correct to use such terms for Khan. His contribution to Bollywood and as a cultural ambassador is immense,” Ravi Shankar Prasad of the BJP, contradicting their ally in Maharashtra to defend SRK. .
This is rather a comment on the Indian media, who takes things out of context to raise passions, then when those passions are raised – whether it was in terms of misquoting SRK on IPL or in this current case, or indeed anyone else – use those raise passions to attract more eyeballs. Am not sure that this is meant to be the role of the media – to stir the pot and wait for people to get at each others’ throat.
I am not the world’s greatest SRK fan. there are films that i have enjoyed, films i have loathed and films i have not even bothered to watch. But, thisis a hatchet job. And, a badly researched hatchet job at that. I am not sure what bothers me more.
(declaration : I have neither met SRK, nor worked with him, or have pitched to him, or likely to – we are completely in different universes) ..
This, incidentally, is the piecethat firstposthad issues with. and, it is a wry, funny piece on what it means to be a Khan …
“It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from the OBC and the scheduled castes and no increasingly, scheduled tribes and as long as this is the case the Indian Republic will survive”
- Ashish Nandy
I have been told i am wrong in railing against this statement (ranting would be more appropriate) – but i truly find it abhorrent. To call it irresponsible would be wrong, it would imply that the statement was correct, but someone should have held their silence for ‘political correctness’. At a very basic level it is sans data. Even if you looked at the datathat comes out of the GoI, where are the positions of power. And, if there are no positions of power – what corruption are you talking about – chai pani ?
Total No. of officers
No. of SCs
% age of SCs
No. of STs
% age of STs
( The number of officers presently working as Secretary, Additional Secretary, Joint Secretary and Director level posts, in the Government of India and the number of SC and ST officers on these posts and their percentage, as on 14.3.2011, as per the information available. As regards the number of OBC officers, it is stated that data regarding OBC status of the officers was not being obtained at the time of appointment of officers prior to 1994 and is therefore not available.)
And, if you are talking about elected representatives being corrupt – what are they taking money for and from whom and to what end? corruption requires two parties – who is the other party – which caste ?
if you or I had made the ‘nuanced’ argument correlating caste & corruption, would we be out of line ? When Raj T says that a certain linguistic minority is responsible for crime, he is insulting. when Dr.Nandy says that SC, ST, OBC’s are primarily responsible for corruption – it is a nuanced argument. and this is the argument I made to my mother (who was trolling me on this post from the other room) – if a Noam Chomsky made a statement like this on African Americans & crime and said that it will save the American republic – he would have lost tenure. I am still reeling at the defense put out on this statement.
I have heard statements like this in ‘polite’ drawing room conversations. “they’ are corrupt, ‘they’ are unruly, ‘they’ don’t follow the law, ‘they break the system, until ‘they’ came into the system, the system was good etc, etc. It is also in these conversations, I hear, questions on universal franchise – is it a bad idea. whether ‘they’ should vote – afte rall ‘they’ don’t pay taxes.
Statements like this, are bad news. In a rapidly changing India, in an aspirational India – targeting 70%+ of the population and labeling them as being corrupt. the very thought of it makes me angry. And, from someone whom i respected, whose works i have studied and whose books adorn my bookshelf- it is also more than anger, it is heart breaking.
This is almost in the same space as saying women who wear short clothes have a higher probability of being raped .. or something equally inane… and then justifying it by saying that it is a great equalizer …we would call out anyone who said that, and call people who defended that statement as regressive.
Yes, free speech is important, and i will defend Mr.Nandy’s right to free speech – but, i also have the right to say he has got it wrong.
My blog for Tehelka, last week. Yes, Maachisshould have been on the list
Zero Dark Thirty has hit the screens to much controversy, debate, acclaimand box office success. The film deals with the decade long hunt for master terrorist Osama Bin Laden The film is a fascinating study in looking at shades of good and evil. There is a thin line between the two, and those who fight terror have to work very hard not to slip over to the other side. This battle is not just between ideologies or good and bad, but is also the battle within. How far do you go to keep innocents safe? This is a theme that has been looked at multiple times in movies.
Bollywood films too have looked at the issue of terror and the fight against terror. Some are out and out jingoistic, others unbelievably fantastic, yet others pure entertainment. Few have looked at the contours of terror realistically. Here in no particular order are five of the most realistic Hindi films, that use the fight against terror as a backdrop
Drohkaal- possibly one of the best films in contemporary Indian Cinema, that looks at the issue of terrorism. Directed by Govind Nihlani, the film looks at the shades of grey that come into play in dealing with terror. Set against a backdrop of an unnamed terror organization (most likely Naxal) unleashing violence against civilians. Two policemen DCP Abhay Singh (Om Puri) and DCP Abbas Lodhi (Naseeruddin Shah) plant agents in a group led by Comarade Bhadra-Ashish Vidyarthi in a National Award Winning performance. The cat and mouse story between the hunter and the hunted is a fascinating one and the end is a twist in the tail.
A Wednesday – written an directed by Neeraj Pandey, the film went on to become a box office superstar, purely based on word of mouth. The film tells the story of a retired cop , played by Anupam Kher, and his last big case that takes place on a Wednesday. A man, played by Naseeruddin Shah, plants bombs across the city of Mumbai and threatens to detonate them unless jailed terrorists are freed. Who is this man, what is his agenda and will he get away with it? The film is a taut thriller, and one reason why it was such a hit – apart from the brilliant writing and performances – is that Naseeruddin Shah’s character resonates with most of us.
Black Friday – In 1993, bombs ripped through Bombay (as it then was) destroying buses, buildings,people disintegrated, yet others were maimed and injured. . Hundreds died, many more injured and it left the city numb with rage, grief and disbelief. Anurag Kashyap’s film based on the book by Hussain Zaidi tells the story of the blasts (and its investigations) from different perspectives. Raw and gritty, the film makes for compelling viewing.
Sarfarosh – looked at the issue of cross border terrorism (read Pakistan sponsored terrorism) and the attempt of honest young ACP Rathod, Aamir Khan, to put together a crack team that fights terror. On the other side is Naseeruddin Shah, who has possibly acted in 80% of all films on terrorism, who plays a ghazal singer and terror conduit Gulfam Hassan. The film directed by John Matthew Mathan has just one flaw – a mawkish love story that does nothing for the film. The film has a fine cameo by Mukesh Rishi- who plays Inspector Salim
Roja – The film made in Tamil was dubbed into Hindi and became an all India hit. It forms the first part of Mani Ratnam’s trilogy on terror, with Bombayand Dil Sebeing the other two. Mani Ratnam’s greatest strengthwas the telling of the stories of ordinary people. Roja (Madhoo) is a young woman from rural Tamil Nadu whose husband is a government employee who is kidnapped in Jammu & Kashmir. The story follows a parallel track, the husband’s (Arvind Swamy) interactions with the terrorists on a daily basis, and the interactions of Roja with the government machinery in getting her husband freed. Pankaj Kapurplays the head of the terrorist cell, Liaqat, with a tremendous amount of empathy. The film also boasted a great soundtrack by A.R.Rehman.
Which films, with terror as the backdrop, are in your top 5 ?