Will religion ever disappear? – Rachel Nuwer BBC- Future 19.12.14

Original Article: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141219-will-religion-ever-disappear

Atheism is on the rise around the world, so does that mean spirituality will soon be a thing of the past? Rachel Nuwer discovers that the answer is far from simple.

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The lighting of a cross during the Christian Los Escobazos Festival in Spain, celebrating the conception of the Virgin Mary (Getty Images)

A growing number of people, millions worldwide, say they believe that life definitively ends at death – that there is no God, no afterlife and no divine plan. And it’s an outlook that could be gaining momentum – despite its lack of cheer. In some countries, openly acknowledged atheism has never been more popular.

“There’s absolutely more atheists around today than ever before, both in sheer numbers and as a percentage of humanity,” says Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and author of Living the Secular Life. According to a Gallup International survey of more than 50,000 people in 57 countries, the number of individuals claiming to be religious fell from 77% to 68% between 2005 and 2011, while those who self-identified as atheist rose by 3% – bringing the world’s estimated proportion of adamant non-believers to 13%.

While atheists certainly are not the majority, could it be that these figures are a harbinger of things to come? Assuming global trends continue might religion someday disappear entirely?

It’s impossible to predict the future, but examining what we know about religion – including why it evolved in the first place, and why some people chose to believe in it and others abandon it – can hint at how our relationship with the divine might play out in decades or centuries to come.

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 A priest in Ukraine holds a cross in the ruins of Kiev’s Trade Union building earlier this year (Getty Images)

Scholars are still trying to tease out the complex factors that drive an individual or a nation toward atheism, but there are a few commonalities. Part of religion’s appeal is that it offers security in an uncertain world. So not surprisingly, nations that report the highest rates of atheism tend to be those that provide their citizens with relatively high economic, political and existential stability. “Security in society seems to diminish religious belief,” Zuckerman says. Capitalism, access to technology and education also seems to correlate with a corrosion of religiosity in some populations, he adds.

Crisis of faith

Japan, the UK, Canada, South Korea, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, France and Uruguay (where the majority of citizens have European roots) are all places where religion was important just a century or so ago, but that now report some of the lowest belief rates in the world. These countries feature strong educational and social security systems, low inequality and are all relatively wealthy. “Basically, people are less scared about what might befall them,” says Quentin Atkinson, a psychologist at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

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 Yemeni girls show their hands decorated with traditional henna designs as they celebrate the end of Ramadan (Getty Images)

Yet decline in belief seems to be occurring across the board, including in places that are still strongly religious, such as Brazil, Jamaica and Ireland. “Very few societies are more religious today than they were 40 or 50 years ago,” Zuckerman says. “The only exception might be Iran, but that’s tricky because secular people might be hiding their beliefs.”

The US, too, is an outlier in that it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but also has high rates of religiosity. (Still, a recent Pew surveyrevealed that, between 2007 and 2012, the proportion of Americans who said they are atheist rose from 1.6% to 2.4%.)

Decline, however, does not mean disappearance, says Ara Norenzayan, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and author of Big Gods. Existential security is more fallible than it seems. In a moment, everything can change: a drunk driver can kill a loved one; a tornado can destroy a town; a doctor can issue a terminal diagnosis. As climate change wreaks havoc on the world in coming years and natural resources potentially grow scarce, then suffering and hardship could fuel religiosity. “People want to escape suffering, but if they can’t get out of it, they want to find meaning,” Norenzayan says. “For some reason, religion seems to give meaning to suffering – much more so than any secular ideal or belief that we know of.”

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 In the Philippines, survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession (Getty Images)

This phenomenon constantly plays out in hospital rooms and disaster zones around the world. In 2011, for example, a massive earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand – a highly secular society. There was asudden spike of religiosity in the people who experienced that event, but the rest of the country remained as secular as ever. While exceptions to this rule do exist – religion in Japan plummeted following World War II, for instance – for the most part, Zuckerman says, we adhere by the Christchurch model. “If experiencing something terrible caused all people to become atheists, then we’d all be atheists,” he says.

The mind of god

But even if the world’s troubles were miraculously solved and we all led peaceful lives in equity, religion would probably still be around. This is because a god-shaped hole seems to exist in our species’ neuropsychology, thanks to a quirk of our evolution.

A rabbi reads during Purim festivities (Getty Images)
 A rabbi reads during Purim festivities (Getty Images)

Understanding this requires a delve into “dual process theory”. This psychological staple states that we have two very basic forms of thought: System 1 and System 2. System 2 evolved relatively recently. It’s the voice in our head – the narrator who never seems to shut up – that enables us to plan and think logically.

System 1, on the other hand, is intuitive, instinctual and automatic. These capabilities regularly develop in humans, regardless of where they are born. They are survival mechanisms. System 1 bestows us with an innate revulsion of rotting meat, allows us to speak our native language without thinking about it and gives babies the ability to recognise parents and distinguish between living and nonliving objects. It makes us prone to looking for patterns to better understand our world, and to seek meaning for seemingly random events like natural disasters or the death of loved ones.

An Indian Sikh lights candles during Bandi Chhor Divas, or Diwali (Getty Images)
 An Indian Sikh lights candles during Bandi Chhor Divas, or Diwali (Getty Images)

In addition to helping us navigate the dangers of the world and find a mate, some scholars think that System 1 also enabled religions to evolve and perpetuate. System 1, for example, makes us instinctually primed to see life forces – a phenomenon called hypersensitive agency detection – everywhere we go, regardless of whether they’re there or not. Millennia ago, that tendency probably helped us avoid concealed danger, such as lions crouched in the grass or venomous snakes concealed in the bush. But it also made us vulnerable to inferring the existence of invisible agents – whether they took the form of a benevolent god watching over us, an unappeased ancestor punishing us with a drought or a monster lurking in the shadows.

Similarly, System 1 encourages us to see things dualistically, meaning we have trouble thinking of the mind and body as a single unit. This tendency emerges quite early: young children, regardless of their cultural background, are inclined to believe that they have an immortal soul – that their essence or personhood existed somewhere prior to their birth, and will always continue to exist. This disposition easily assimilates into many existing religions, or – with a bit of creativity – lends itself to devising original constructs.

An Indian Hindu devotee a day ahead of the Chhat festival (Getty Images)
 An Indian Hindu devotee a day ahead of the Chhat festival (Getty Images)

“A Scandinavian psychologist colleague of mine who is an atheist told me that his three-year-old daughter recently walked up to him and said, ‘God is everywhere all of the time.’ He and his wife couldn’t figure out where she’d gotten that idea from,” says Justin Barrett, director of the Thrive Center for Human Development at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and author of Born Believers. “For his daughter, god was an elderly woman, so you know she didn’t get it from the Lutheran church.”

For all of these reasons, many scholars believe that religion arose as “a byproduct of our cognitive disposition”, says Robert McCauley, director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Culture at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not. “Religions are cultural arrangements that evolved to engage and exploit these natural capacities in humans.”

Hard habits to break

Atheists must fight against all of that cultural and evolutionary baggage. Human beings naturally want to believe that they are a part of something bigger, that life isn’t completely futile. Our minds crave purpose and explanation. “With education, exposure to science and critical thinking, people might stop trusting their intuitions,” Norenzayan says. “But the intuitions are there.”

Azerbaijani Muslims pray at the end of Ramadan (Getty Images)
 Azerbaijani Muslims pray at the end of Ramadan (Getty Images)

On the other hand, science – the system of choice that many atheists and non-believers look to for understanding the natural world – is not an easy cognitive pill to swallow. Science is about correcting System 1 biases, McCauley says. We must accept that the Earth spins, even though we never experience that sensation for ourselves. We must embrace the idea that evolution is utterly indifferent and that there is no ultimate design or purpose to the Universe, even though our intuition tells us differently. We also find it difficult to admit that we are wrong, to resist our own biases and to accept that truth as we understand it is ever changing as new empirical data are gathered and tested – all staples of science. “Science is cognitively unnatural – it’s difficult,” McCauley says. “Religion, on the other hand, is mostly something we don’t even have to learn because we already know it.”

“There’s evidence that religious thought is the path of least resistance,” Barrett adds. “You’d have to fundamentally change something about our humanity to get rid of religion.” This biological sticking point probably explains the fact that, although 20% of Americans are not affiliated with a church, 68% of them say that they still believe in God and 37% describe themselves as spiritual. Even without organised religion, they believe that some greater being or life force guides the world.

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 Buddhist monks file towards a ceremony at Sampov Treileak pagoda in Cambodia (Getty Images)

Similarly, many around the world who explicitly say they don’t believe in a god still harbour superstitious tendencies, like belief in ghosts, astrology, karma, telepathy or reincarnation. “In Scandinavia, most people say they don’t believe in God, but paranormal and superstitious beliefs tend to be higher than you’d think,” Norenzayan says. Additionally, non-believers often lean on what could be interpreted as religious proxies – sports teams, yoga, professional institutions, Mother Nature and more – to guide their values in life. As a testament to this, witchcraft is gaining popularity in the US, and paganism seems to be the fastest growing religion in the UK.

Religious experiences for non-believers can also manifest in other, more bizarre ways. Anthropologist Ryan Hornbeck, also at the Thrive Center for Human Development, found evidence that the World of Warcraft isassuming spiritual importance for some players in China, for example. “WoW seems to be offering opportunities to develop certain moral traits that regular life in contemporary society doesn’t afford,” Barrett says. “People seem to have this conceptual space for religious thought, which – if it’s not filled by religion – bubbles up in surprising ways.”

The in-group

What’s more, religion promotes group cohesion and cooperation. The threat of an all-powerful God (or gods) watching for anyone who steps out of line likely helped to keep order in ancient societies. “This is the supernatural punishment hypothesis,” Atkinson says. “If everyone believes that the punishment is real, then that can be functional to groups.”

A devotee at Thailand's Vegetarian Festival (Getty Images)
 A devotee at Thailand’s Vegetarian Festival (Getty Images)

And again, insecurity and suffering in a population may play a role here, by helping to encourage religions with stricter moral codes. In a recent analysis of religious belief systems of nearly 600 traditional societies from around the world, Joseph Bulbulia at the University of Wellington, New Zealand and his colleagues found that those places with harsher weather or that are more prone to natural disasters were more likely to develop moralising gods. Why? Helpful neighbours could mean the difference between life and death. In this context, religion evolved as a valuable public utility.

“When we see something so pervasive, something that emerges so quickly developmentally and remains persistent across cultures, then it makes sense that the leading explanation is that it served a cooperative function,” says Bulbulia.

Finally, there’s also some simple mathematics behind religion’s knack for prevailing. Across cultures, people who are more religious also tend to have more children than people who are not. “There’s very strong evidence for this,” Norenzayan says. “Even among religious people, the more fundamentalist ones usually have higher fertility rates than the more liberal ones.” Add to that the fact that children typically follow their parents’ lead when it comes to whether or not they become religious adults themselves, and a completely secularised world seems ever more unlikely.

Enduring belief

For all of these reasons – psychological, neurological, historical, cultural and logistical – experts guess that religion will probably never go away. Religion, whether it’s maintained through fear or love, is highly successful at perpetuating itself. If not, it would no longer be with us.

And even if we lose sight of the Christian, Muslim and Hindu gods and all the rest, superstitions and spiritualism will almost certainly still prevail. More formal religious systems, meanwhile, would likely only be a natural disaster or two away. “Even the best secular government can’t protect you from everything,” says McCauley. As soon as we found ourselves facing an ecological crisis, a global nuclear war or an impending comet collision, the gods would emerge.

“Humans need comfort in the face of pain and suffering, and many need to think that there’s something more after this life, that they’re loved by an invisible being,” Zuckerman says. “There will always be people who believe, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they remain the majority.”

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No Raanjhanaa broke no stereotypes, it did not make a positive impact!

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When the promos of the movie Raanjhanaa came out, people were heard shouting, ‘Oh Raanjhaana has Dhanush in it.. he will break the stereotype of the typical bollywood hero. This will change the way Bollywood had portrayed masculinity till now. Perception that the mainstream bollywood actors have to have a ‘hot body’ with ‘good looks’ would now be de-convoluted’. The above image exactly depicts things that have been doing rounds for long in the media. The moment I heard the afore-mentioned I knew something was wrong. Precisely why I decided to watch the movie!

Honestly, it was exaggeration at its best. The film was a good watch that made no lasting impression just as most of the other bollywood movies. Nothing that was promised was delivered.

If I were to de-construct the movie and the claims made this is exactly how I felt:

1. Dhanush will break the stereotype

It irked me a lot when I read the reviews by film critics that praised Dhanush for his commendable performance and his courage. This takes me back to the time when Gangs of Wasseypur had released. The film had no one from the commercial cinema who is thought to have ‘killer looks’ as per the so called bollywood standards but still managed to build a cult following. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Huma Qureshi and Richa Chaddha, once unknown are now household names. Raanjhanaa made no such impact and was a sheer disappointment! Dhanush acted well in the movie but he is definitely not the trend setter. Actors like Suniel Shetty, Rajpal Yadav, Omkar Das Manikpuri, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rajnikanth have made successful attempts to challenge the persisting notions in mainstream cinema long before Dhanush. The film’s attempt to manipulate the audience through Dhanush’s puppy-dog cuteness is insulting, if not downright sexist; this childish harasser is aggrandized as a pure lover, an innocent, blinded by saintly devotion to yet another undeserving shrewish and calculating female. I felt neither the film nor the character did any justice to Dhanush’s acting capabilities.

2. Ladki sirf do cheezon se pat-ti hai, mehnat se ya fir darr se. 

There is something seriously wrong with this statement. The dialogue has been written and used recklessly in the movie. The film glorifies eve-teasing, encourages the use of acid attacks and slicing wrists as means to get the affection reciprocated when the normal methods fail.  I do not disagree with the fact that a section of Indian men still use such methods to impose their will on the women they are infatuated with, but I do disagree with the modern educated girl in Zoya who failed to stand up to the boy’s antics and instead encouraged him. The film is set in Banaras, Uttar Pradesh and reflects the contrast in mentality of both educated and uneducated men in the state. However, it fails to acknowledge that the mentality issue is prevalent across the whole of India and not just UP alone.

3. If things are not going your way, attempt suicide.

Seriously, what is wrong with people? I know de-evolution is the trend of this century but there are limits to which one can tolerate idiocy. If things do not go your way, you work harder to change them. You do not use force on others neither do you kill yourself. No one promised you that life is going to go exactly how you planned it, but hey, its not going to be that bad either. Since when did slashing wrists started being considered as a pretense of bravery? Gimme a break… do not reason it out with me by saying.. it was love.. I was madly in love.. there was no other way! Sorry, you were not in love, you were only being a fool. In the movie, Zoya never falls for the jobless and uneducated Kundan. She still went for the better looking, educated, sophisticated and goal-oriented Jasjeet and royally ignored his flaws! Moral of the story, education, ambition and confidence is all that is required to win someone over. If they do not work on one person, never mind, there is plenty of fish in the sea. Trust me! 🙂

4. A woman can turn the world around. If she doesn’t like you, she will end up killing you. 

Well, whose mistake is it anyway? Since centuries women have been perceived as timid creatures whom men can channel in which ever way they want to. Now when women have started challenging these age old assumptions and breaking out of the shell, men are suddenly uncomfortable with the whole idea of equal rights and women empowerment. They now brand them as manipulators. Honestly, if it was a man who was to take revenge from another man in politics, he would have resorted to manipulation too but in a much different way. Then why mis-branding women only? *No I am not a feminist but I do believe in equal rights!* As far as Bindiya is concerned, I feel sorry for Sawara having to play this character.

I do not think its the stereotype of male actors in Indian cinema which needs to be broken, its the obsession with use of clichés for depiction of masculinity and the gender stereotyping which needs a major upheaval. It is required that the film makers learn from the reactions of masses post the Delhi Rape case and start writing intelligent scripts. Its time to raise the bar and get your priorities right.

Overall Rating: ** 1/2 on 5

Verdict: An irresponsible attempt to be different

Random conversations that made sense in December!

I love talking!  May be that is why I started blogging in the first place. 😛 There is nothing like a good conversation to open up your senses or put you into deep thinking. The individual perspectives on relevant or irrelevant matters help broaden your understanding of people around you. In this article, I will be sharing a few of the random conversations I had while I was on a vacation in India.

On my way to Jaipur, I met two adorable girls, a 10 year old and a 12 year old accompanied by their mother. The girls were equally mischievous and intelligent. So, I strike up a conversation with both of them and start asking them about the latest release- Dabangg 2. The girls were quick to say that they thoroughly enjoyed the film and wished we had more cops like Chulbul Pandey in Delhi Police. At first instance, I had a hearty laugh but when I asked them why do they think this way, both of them quoted the Delhi Rape Case. (It was definitely the last thing I wanted to hear) The girls also pointed at an article published in the Times of India which described the failure of Delhi police to judge the molestation of a 12 year old in a moving DTC bus. I was surprised to see how quickly the kids these days can understand such situations. I shared with them an incident that happened with me four and a half years ago. It was a small case of my mobile phone being picked from my trouser’s pocket but it left a lasting impression. It was not the crime which offended me as a citizen but the attitude of the police which came as a shocker. I caught the thief the moment he stole my phone and saw him pass it on to his partner. Though I grabbed one of them by the collar, I could not get hold of the second one as he ran away too quickly. I shouted, created a scene, gathered the crowd and dragged the thief to Uttam Nagar Police station. (Honestly, I have never been so proud of my loud voice and the ability to create a mountain of a molehill. But in this incident, it was my flaws that helped me.) I handed over the culprit to the police and he was taken in custody. A police personnel then took me to the crime site and was quick to throw the case off to Janakpuri jurisdiction as the crime site was 20 centimeters away from Uttam Nagar jurisdiction. I found it absolutely ridiculous but little did I know that the worst was yet to come. When I came back to the police station, I demanded a full body search of the thief though I knew he passed over the phone to his partner. It was at this moment when I got to know that the thief had escaped from the custody. This was more than enough to make me lose my temper and forget that I have a family to worry about and its the police I am raising my voice against. I wrote an FIR report myself as the police was not ready to file one and courageously mentioned ‘The thief was handed over to the police but the police helped him escape and were negligent the whole time. I did my duty as a law abiding citizen but the policemen failed to perform their’s.’ None of the things I did changed anything about the situation. However, when I used ‘approach’, not only did I get a brand new phone, I was also dropped off to my destination in a police jeep in no time. I was asked to withdraw my FIR for obvious reasons. It was after this that I understood that one should stop hoping for protection and justice from them and be their own bodyguards without abusing the law.

As I got to know the girls better, I asked them about their school. They were absolutely elated at the question. It was quite apparent that they loved going to school. Turns out the school in Rohini, Delhi is a public school named after the first Indian religious, education and social reformer- Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Any amount of honour for this man shall be less. I was disappointed when I came to know that neither of the two girls knew about him. The younger one excused herself by saying that she has never seen his photograph or statue in her school, so she has no idea who he was. The only pictures or statues in her school are those of Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Shiela Dixit. (Do I need to say anything more? I am pretty sure you would’ve guessed my reaction. Since these were kids, I preferred to shut my mouth.) I then gave them a fifteen minute talk to educate them about one of the greatest reformers India ever produced and his reforms which paved way for new and liberated India. However, amidst everything I realised, we put him on pedestal by naming him as ” The Father of Modern India” but we do not give him his due respect. That is exactly what we have been doing with everything. We have been worshipping and considering things to be sacred whereas we should be applying them in our daily life.  Late Sri Raja Ram Mohan Roy had been fighting against the rotten ideologies that hold no value in present time for decades. He questioned the popular beliefs of Hindus for years and tried his best to establish gender equality in the country. If only we had followed his teachings and not considered them sacred, we would have progressed much before.

The second incident happened in the metro when I was on my way to New Delhi Railway Station. I was travelling in the normal coach in Delhi metro not in the one that is reserved for women when I overheard a conversation between two middle aged men. And of course the topic of the day was, “Delhi Rape Case”. No surprises there! Both the men condemned the crime and were displeased with the government’s attitude. Everything was going in their favour until one of them started to brag about how he has taught his daughter to stay in “her limits” and he is confident that such a thing will never happen with her. Clearly, this man had failed to understand that the plethora of angry men and women at various hotspots of Delhi have been fighting against the idea of keeping women in bounds. Not only that, he indirectly justified the act and stigmatised the rape survivors. If I were a boy being raised with a sister, I would be ashamed of myself if my sister was taught to guard herself because men have no self-control.

One fine evening, I was having a conversation with my mother about how suffocating Delhi has proven to be since December 16. I did not understand why one unfortunate incident was hyped so much? I understand the aggression of the protesters and appreciate their efforts, but I fail to understand, why are all rapes not highlighted as much. There is no question that this case was horrific, but then which rape case isn’t? I was amazed to see the uprising of people and it gave me a ray of hope too. I could see that there exists a section of the society which recognises the need for a change in the mentality of people, while there is another which demands stricter laws. The former demanded a long term solution while the latter saw short term gains. Also, what’s with the names ‘Nirbhaya’, ‘Desh ki Beti’, ‘Amanat’, ‘Damini’? Why did we suddenly feel the need to give the rape survivor a name? Have we again discriminated or have we been biased in a subtle way? These questions left me perplexed for a very long time and I still do not have concrete answers or may be I am purposely not trying to find the answers.

I was constantly following the international reports about the mishap and the coverage was particularly ironic to the recent media controversy over a rape in Ohio. I am 100% sure, more than half of those reading this article would not even be aware of the Ohio controversy. What saddened me more was that my fellow countrymen did not hesitate in sharing these reports on social media platforms. Some even included them in their blogs with additional graphical details. Ethical and unbiased journalism clearly vanished when it came to this particular case. Some websites tried to generate more hits while juvenile writers and organisations saw it as their claim to fame.

Today, I see three different kinds of people in the society.

1. Who are willing to help and be the agents of change.

2. Who shout along with the former but chicken out when it comes to implementation

3. Who laugh at the situation or try to benefit from the situation. This also includes those who are indifferent.

I don’t know who is worse, the second category or the third?  But there is one thing which is very evident in the Indian middle class and that is the desire to change. I hope it does not fade quickly.

Those interested in knowing more about the ohio rape case the following link summarises a few facts http://prinniefied.com/wp/

The Hindu : Opinion / Op-Ed : Why I can’t pay tribute to Thackeray

The Hindu : Opinion / Op-Ed : Why I can’t pay tribute to Thackeray.

There are some people that you absolutely love as they are the revolutionaries in present time. I adore his ‘free-thinking’ capability and ‘don’t give a damn’ attitude. Here’s what Justice Katju had to say on Late Sri Bal Thakery.:

His bhumiputra theory flies in the face of our Constitution and works against the unity needed to ensure development

Muppadhu kodi mugamudayal

Enil maipuram ondrudayal

Ival Seppumozhi padhinetudayal

Enil Sindhanai ondrudayal

(This Bharatmata has 30 crore faces

But her body is one

She speaks 18 languages

But her thought is one)

Tamil poet Subramania Bharathi

Bhedad gana vinauyanti bhinnah supajapah paraih

Tasmat samghatayogesu prayateran ganah sada

(Republics have been destroyed because of internal divisions among the people;

Hence a republic should always strive to achieve unity and good relations among the people)

Mahabharat, Shanti Parva, chapter 108, shloka 14

Tesam anyonyabhinnanam svauaktim anutisthatam

Nigrahah panditaih karyah ksipram eva pradhanatah

(Therefore the wise authorities should crush the separatist forces trying to assert their strength)

Mahabharat, Shanti Parva, 108:26

Political leaders, film stars, cricketers, etc. are all falling over one another to pay tribute to the late Bal Thackeray. Amidst this plethora of accolades and plaudits pouring in from the high and mighty, I humbly wish to register my vote of dissent.

I know of the maxim De mortuis nil nisi bonum (of the dead speak only good), but I regret I cannot, since I regard the interest of my country above observance of civil proprieties.

What is Bal Thackeray’s legacy?

It is the anti-national ‘sons of the soil’ (bhumiputra) theory.

Article 1(1) of the Indian Constitution states: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”

Thus, India is not a confederation but a union.

Article 19 (1) (e) states: “All citizens shall have the right — to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India.”

Thus, it is a fundamental right of a Gujarati, south Indian, Bihari, U.P.ite, or person from any other part of India to migrate to Maharashtra and settle down there, just as it is of Maharashtrians to settle down in any part of India (though there are some restrictions in J&K, and some North-East States, due to historical reasons).

The bhumiputra theory states that Maharashtra essentially belongs to Marathi people, while Gujaratis, south Indians, north Indians, etc. are outsiders. This is in the teeth of Articles 1(1) and 19(1)(e) of the Constitution. India is one nation, and hence non-Maharashtrians cannot be treated as outsiders in Maharashtra.

The Shiv Sena created by Thackeray attacked south Indians in the 1960s and 70s, and vandalised their restaurants and homes. In 2008, Biharis and U.P.ites living in Mumbai (the bhaiyyas who eke out a livelihood as milk and newspaper vendors, taxi drivers etc.) were described as infiltrators and attacked, their taxis smashed, and several beaten up. Muslims were also vilified

This, of course, created a vote bank for Thackeray based on hatred (as had Hitler, of whom Thackeray was an admirer), and how does it matter if the country breaks up and is Balkanised?

Apart from the objection to the ‘sons of the soil’ theory for being anti-national and unconstitutional, there is an even more basic objection, which may rebound on Thackeray’s own people.

India is broadly a country of immigrants (like North America) and 92-93 per cent of the people living in India today are not the original inhabitants but descendants of immigrants who came mainly from the north-west seeking a comfortable life in the sub-continent (see the article ‘What is India?’ on my blog justicekatju.blogspot.in and the video on the website kgfindia.com ).

The original inhabitants (the real bhumiputra) of India are the pre-Dravidian tribals, known as Adivasis (the Bhils, Gonds, Santhals, Todas, etc.) who are only 7-8 per cent of our population today.

Hence if the bhumiputra theory is seriously implemented, 92-93 per cent of Maharashtrians (including, perhaps, the Thackeray family) may have to be regarded as outsiders and treated accordingly. The only real bhumiputra in Maharashtra are the Bhils and other tribals, who are only 7-8 per cent of the population of Maharashtra.

Several separatist and fissiparous forces are at work in India today (including the bhumiputra theory). All patriotic people must combat these forces.

Why must we remain united? We must remain united because only a massive modern industry can generate the huge wealth we require for the welfare of our people — agriculture alone cannot do this — and modern industry requires a huge market. Only a united India can provide the huge market for the modern industry we must create to abolish poverty, unemployment and other social evils, and to provide for the huge health care and modern education systems we must set up if we wish to come to the front ranks of the most advanced countries.

Hence I regret I cannot pay any tribute to Mr. Bal Thackeray.

(Markandey Katju is Chairman, Press Council of India.)

The article was published in The Hindu.

The ‘fake-gurus’ of India

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What is wrong with RAPE?

Everything…  It should be an obvious answer but not everyone is of the same opinion. In past few weeks, I have witnessed multiple uncanny statements doing rounds in the media. These statements have been rather offensive and insensitive to women and to the rape victims. The post describes my viewpoint on rape and the outrageous comments.

Defining ‘rape’.

Rape is defined as sexual contact or penetration achieved: without consent, or with use of physical force, coercion, deception, threat, and/or when the victim is: mentally incapacitated or impaired, physically impaired (due to voluntary or involuntary alcohol or drug consumption), asleep or unconscious.

For some people who can read and write but cannot comprehend the above definition, it becomes mandatory to state that:

  1. Silence doesn’t mean consent
  2. Consent under coercion (physical or emotional) is not given willingly and sex with a person under threat is still RAPE
  3. Consensual sex with a person, under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is also classified as RAPE since judgment is impaired in such individuals.

There is no such thing as ‘legitimate rape’.

The Republican representative of Missouri, Todd Akin got my blood boiling with his comments on pregnancies due to rape in an interview given to St. Louis television station as a part of the election campaign. Mr. Akin was dumb enough to say, “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”
Mr. Akin’s appalling statements were subjected to massive criticism on twitter within minutes of telecast.

I personally would like to ask Mr. Akin, what is LEGITIMATE RAPE? I am confused about the interpretation of this phrase. Being a female biologist, I find it quite fascinating to know that female body is capable of ‘shutting the whole process down’. I may only be familiar with books on Human Physiology authored by Vander and Guyton, none of them ever mentioned something as supernatural as that. If female body was blessed with such capabilities, why would they depend on oral contraceptives and hysterectomy for birth control? Moreover, why would even condom be a standard requirement for safe sex? After all, we can voluntarily ‘shut the whole thing down’.

‘Abortion’ of unwanted pregnancy is an individual’s decision.

I do not understand the hypocrisy and double standards of the society when it comes to aborting the unwanted pregnancy resulting from rape. Many people will hate me for saying that I am in favour of abortion. Trust me, I couldn’t care less. A woman, who is raped, undergoes a lot of pain and trauma. In this situation, a child who reminds her of the traumatic experience time and again is the last thing she desires. Pushing women for unwanted birth is unfair to both the child and the mother as the mother can never love the child enough nor will the child be able to develop adequately. Both unintended and unwanted childbearing can have negative health, social, and psychological consequences. Put yourselves in the shoes of rape victims and try understanding their miseries. Be human, just for once and let it be the victim’s decision alone.

If Todd Akin’s insensitivity wasn’t enough, days later, Richard Mourdock, a geologist by trade made a bizarre statement that stamped unwanted pregnancies to be ‘the will of god’. The Republican candidate for the US Senate in Indiana said, “Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, it is something God intended to happen“. If republicans are so pro-life, then why did they not oppose George W. Bush’s decision to go on war with Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan? Wars were never something god intended to happen as they deprive the people of their right to live. So what is it that you support, the idea of life or the nonsensical belief? (It’s all a matter of convenience. No? )

Mr. Mitt Romney and Mr. Barack Obama earned my respect by thoroughly condemning the statements made by Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. It’s sad that Romney being a republican spent half of his time in election campaign apologising to the people on behalf of his fellow senators.

In Obama’s words,” I don’t know how these guys come up with this idea. Let me make a very simple proposition: Rape is rape. It is a crime. And so these various distinctions about rape don’t make too much sense to me — don’t make any sense to me.”

Forcing a rape victim to ‘marry’ the guilty is not the solution.

When I was a teenager, my mother often used to narrate to me the incidents of rapes, assaults and thefts that were published in the newspapers. No, she wasn’t a lunatic and I wasn’t dyslexic either, I detested newspapers for their depressing content and she was only trying her best to educate me about the world from early on. I found it very irritating when I was little, but now I thoroughly appreciate her efforts. We both resented the practice of marrying a rape victim to the attacker. When I questioned her about the origins of the practice, she coyly said, “I am unaware of its exact origins, though I do know the thought. The punishment for the guilty is to pay the victim’s father in cash or kind. If he chooses to return in kind, he must marry the daughter he raped”. I can guarantee that both of us were equally angry and I was in particular astonished. Later, I tried searching for the source and I did find the answer(now I know why she was hesitant), but what surprised me more was that even the judiciary in many countries use the same practice as punishment for the guilty.

So, how does this work then? A man rapes a woman and his punishment is to get married to the victim. Is it actually a punishment for the man or are you punishing the woman again? Indeed you killed her twice in my eyes.

And for heaven’s sake ‘Chowmein’ and ‘Age’ have nothing to do with rape.

People like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock are not the only ones in the world who love to make offensive statements. The ‘Khap Panchayats’ and former chief minister of Haryana, Mr. Om Prakash Chautala are not behind. The only difference being, they both blame ‘the western influence’ including food, clothes and the ‘marriageable age’ as causes of increase in rape cases in Haryana and not God. The ‘Khap’ strongly believes that spicy Chinese food can cause hormonal imbalance which upsets the brain circuitry and compels the brave haryanvi men to rape the women. *Claps!* (Why do we even listen to them?) To make matters worse, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader and former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala backed the view of khaps, that the marriageable age for girl be lowered to 16 to prevent the rising number of rapes in the state. Justifying his stand, Chautala said even in the Mughal era people would marry off their daughters early to save them from atrocities of the Mughals. However Mr. Chautala certainly doesn’t understand that we are out of the Mughal era and Chinese food is actually quite bland. It is the ‘Indian Chinese’ which is spicy.

Since sociology is not my major, I cannot give a detailed analysis or a report on the factors responsible for rape and the possible solutions. As a woman, based on my observation and reading, I can definitely say that RAPE is independent of caste, sex, creed, religion, age or food. It is one thing that can happen anywhere, to anyone and in any circumstance. What causes rape is debateable, what can prevent it is not. If we start respecting each other as individuals and become more sensitive to the needs of others, world would be a better place. Get rid of the beliefs which stop you from progressing and think freely.

And as for the woman in the picture above, she definitely would have abused ginormously and even kicked you in the balls if she was able to.

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Bitch, I am fabulous! ;)

Have you ever been hated for the fact that you say things you feel in their face? Have you ever been hated for showing people the truth?

Join the band-wagon as you are not alone. Just because you show the mirror makes you a bad person. Well let’s face the truth “People never want their faults to be known”. Moreover, they can never digest the fact that someone can have the guts to be what they want to be and show oneself the side they never ever want to see. Everyone just wants to see the good because they always want to project a good image. But don’t you think it spoils the fun? In maintaining that so called ‘good image’, you end up losing and compromising on things which may give you pleasure.One cannot please everyone they meet and its not even required. One doesn’t even make friends with  everyone as the other person may find a fault in you no matter how good you are. When someone is happy and giving, everyone is a friend, the moment the person is in trouble and becomes needy, no one cares. At the end of the day, the ones who stick by you, through thick and thin, who tolerate you the most are to be treasured.

We define the society and we decide how many people form the society for us. A life can easily be led with the aid of one person. Two is a company and three is a crowd. Don’t worry about what people who don’t matter say or not say about you. Society changes everyday, so does opinion.
Each day repeat it to yourself, ‘Bitch, I am fabulous!’ and you know you are. 😀

When I first met Mr. Rahul Gandhi!

He is dynamic, young,energetic, full of enthusiasm and optimism, a star. That is how All India Congress Committee describes this young leader, speculated to be the next prime minister of the country. (Note: He hasn’t taken any prominent position of power in the cabinet but still congress bets on him for the prime minister-ship in General Elections of 2014.)

Born on June 19, 1970, this 39 year old is on a mission to fulfil his father’s dream about the nation. This half Indian claims to love this country unconditionally. Although new in politics, he managed to live up to the expectations, well at-least claimed to, until he recently made a few mistakes by making politically incorrect and  ignorant statements in public meetings rendering him unpopular among the masses. What he implied and what was made out of it, people stand divided on the thought.

Educated at Modern School, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi,he attained Bachelor’s in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University  and then moved on to Harvard jumped to Rolings and finally completed M. Phil from Trinity College, Cambridge. Some of these details are made known to the Indian public and can easily be found on the internet. However, claims have been made that the man in question can very well be lying about the same. Upon independent investigation done by Dr. Subramanian Swami, there was no record of any M.Phil thesis submitted by Rahul Vinci and/or Gandhi in University of Cambridge libraries. His Harvard stint is also regarded as a failure by Dr. Swamy. One may never know the truth, but one is free to chose what and whom to believe.

On his shoulders, this man carries the burden of being born in Nehru-Gandhi family, one of the most influential and most successful political families of India. After all this, he still manages to remain modest. Not even a single hint of attitude, extremely down to earth, humble and open, this man is all praises when you meet him in person.What makes him more appealing is the power of persuasion. He is a leader,without any doubts, but he is blessed with the ability to be able to connect with people. No wonder he has such a huge fan following. Whether its a façade or not, only time will tell.

It was on September 9, 2009 when I got a chance to see the man himself. I was charmed by the simplicity of this man. In spotless white kurta pyjama he sat there carefully observing the audience. All eyes were stuck on him, hundreds were gazing at him but nothing made him conscious. After the welcome address, finally, the moment came when Rahul was given the charge of the microphone. Gladly, he moved towards the podium and uttered his first words. ” I would like to start this as an interactive session, would want to know your opinion on matters and would try to answer all your questions to the best of my ability. You are free to ask me whatever you want.Towards the end of the session, I would like to have 5 minutes to myself where I will share some thoughts of mine with you and will leave you with certain issues to ponder over.” The voice was full of confidence, he was exuberant.

The session begins, first question “Sir..!!”.. “Don’t call me Sir, I’m Rahul, call me by my name”.. ” As you say. So Rahul, What is your leadership style?” with a broad smile on his face he replied, “My Leadership style? Well I don’t have any leadership style as such. Everyone is a leader in our country and we should be proud of this fact.(That is true, everyone is a leader in India and I feel that is a huge problem with us.) We just need to work together. I respect this country for its democracy. I just want to share my vision about this country with you and if you approve of it and work with me towards it we can achieve what we want”.

Next one was hilarious, “Rahul, do you have any slogan for the young like Obama had? the one that stated YES WE CAN!! ????” He again smiled and said, no I do not have a slogan for the youth but I believe in the youth of this country. Such slogans may be able to motivate you temporarily but real motivation comes from within. We all are capable of achieving the impossible, all what we need to do is to break open our shells, express ourselves and be perceptive.”

Now focus shifts from leadership to education. A girl in the front gets up and asks him “Why is there brain drain in India?” To this question Rahul had no clear answer. What all he could reply was,” We can not stop them who wish to pursue higher education abroad. Our constitution doesn’t permit us as it gives us the freedom of movement. We can not even pressurize people to return back as amenities offered there are much more than what we have in our country. But that doesn’t mean our country is less than any other superpower. The cost of educating a child in our country is much less than that in US, UK or Europe. We impart world class education at much lower costs. The west is always hunting for Indians. All what we need is respect for this nation. Once we start respecting our country, situation will not be the same.”

One of the most interesting comments made by him was on the population of this country for which he said “Don’t ever think the population of this country is its minus point. Ours is a young country as majority of the population falls in the age group of 12-45 which is productive and contributes majorly to the economy as compared to countries like France where it’s the elderly that dominate and hence forms the old country.” (Dude, you may be right about the age group, but seriously…we have too many mouths to feed. Its next to impossible to be able to provide for such a huge population. The already existing competition, basic principle of speciation and natural selection is the reason for majority of our problems.)

Next was involvement of political parties in educational institutions in the form of college elections. He strongly favoured this and tried to justify himself, which to an extent he was able to. Apart from this, issue of nuclear deal, sustainable development as well as lack of funds in science and technology also came up. He concluded by quoting his father. He did stop talking but his objective was still not fulfilled. He came down the stage, into the public and gave his email Id . He interacted with a few front rowers and even with a few foreigners. Before leaving he shared a few of his thoughts with us.

He said “World seems to be smaller now, it is connected.. thanks to the technological advancements. We are closer now and this closeness, this sharing of ideas and openness would pave way for a better future.

Be perceptive, be receptive, open up, break your shell, take the lead, think independently. This country needs all of us, it wants all of us to work together. Out of 6 billion people in the world we contribute 1 billion that makes 1/6th of the world’s population. We have a much larger responsibility to fulfill. Don’t just think, put your thoughts into action as well.” ( Hola! We were 6 billion in 2009.. and we are 7 billion in 2012.. OMFG!! Vasectomy .. we need vasectomy.. NOW!!)

And the man walks away..accompanied by his body guards. Room becomes dull again but he manages to leave us with a question. Something to think about.. are we all contributing any thing to our country? Do we even respect it?? He did make an impact, like every other politician in India does. The only thing which gives him an edge over the others is his pro-youth and youth targeted propaganda.

He does manage to win over the youth by motivating them to be the agents of much required change but his lack of tact in his public dealings and inconsistency are the evils that will haunt him for a long time.  The ‘Gandhi’ family name which he carries is a boon and bane at the same time. We can only come to know of his limtis and capabilities when his abilities are put to test in future. So, lets wait and watch if he is only words or there is some substance too.

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