Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Aditi Restaurant Fiasco: Why the joke is not on the Congress.

A lot has happened since the receipt from Mumbai's Aditi Restaurant got leaked sometime yesterday. Some took it as a harmless joke meant for a moment's worth of laughter, while others were praising the restaurant for hitting the nail on the head.


Copy of the receipt

The Youth Congress went and shut down the shop. The Congress spokesperson released an official statement  saying that they would check if the receipts issued by the shop amount to defamation. Immediately, the world seemed to have turned anti-Congress since apparently the same UPA Government which had criticized the Shiv Sena for the arrest of two girls over a facebook post  cannot handle a joke when it is directed at them.

After that there are several allegations which have cropped up, including the fact that the restaurant owner is a politician, and BJP's open criticism of the way the UPA government functions, followed by 65 MPs writing to Mr. Obama not to grant Narendra Modi a US Visa, and among them many, including CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury,  claiming that their signature on the letter had been forged and the BJP terming it as a dirty trick of the Congress. Anyway. I am going to set aside these political jokers, and try and objectively look into what was done by the workers at Aditi Restaurant and the possible repercussions.

Before I go any further, let me clarify that I do not support the Congress. Never have, never will. But I was hugely disappointed at Sitaram Yechury's statement that his signature on the letter to President Obama is forged. The least I'd expect from the Communist Party leader would be to at least vehemently oppose anything which goes in favour of the right winged fanatics. But then again, maybe Yechury's blood isn't half as red as Marx's.

Back to the topic at hand: the receipts which were issued by Aditi Restaurant.

Despite all that is being said, here is why I feel that the Congress have a strong case against the owners of the restaurant.

Firstly, defamation. Defamation is defined under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code.  It reads,

" Whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter excepted, to defame that person."

Going strictly by the definition provided, the manager and owner of Aditi Restaurant might be held liable and be forced to pay compensation to the Congress government. After all, the statement published at the bottom of the receipt isn't exactly one which will do the Congress' reputation wonders, and it does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

At this juncture, I also want to bring to the forefront, Article 124 A of the Indian Penal Code. This article talks about sedition and states,

" Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, a shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine."

Even in this case, all the elements which constitute sedition are present, since the current UPA government is the lawfully elected government in India. At this time, let me clarify. This particular article of the IPC allows for constructive criticism of the government and does not count that under the ambit of sedition as long as it does not incite hate, contempt or dissatisfaction. However, in this case, the actions of the management of Aditi Restaurant do not seem as if they have been made with bona fide interests in mind, which might not work in their favour, if this matter manages to reach the courts of law.

The current scenario calls for a probe into Aditi Restaurant to check what were the intentions behind printing receipts with hate messages. Meanwhile, with the way the NaMo social media team has been campaigning for the 2014 general elections, I will not be surprised if all of this turns out to be another one of Modi's plans to gain some foothold at the Centre. 

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Raped. Gang Raped.

On December 16th, 2012, a 23 year old paramedic student was raped and beaten up by six men in a private bus in Delhi. Thirteen days later, she finally succumbed to her injuries and died in a hospital in Singapore. I shall not get into the facts of the gang rape, as most of you are already well versed with it. However, what followed this rape case was what I believe is even more shameful and nauseating.

Everyone decided that this was the right time to grab their fifteen seconds in the limelight. The media went ballistic trying to report every minute detail from what the victim had had for breakfast to when her next poop was scheduled, while rapes continued unnoticed all around the country. The youth meanwhile decided that it was high time for them to do something. Proactive, as they are, they decided to resort to facebook and twitter to ensure rapes do not happen in the future. People violently protested on the roads of Delhi leading to government property being damaged, police having to resort to violence to control the mob, and ten metro stations being shut down in the capital indefinitely. Perfect steps to ensure that rapes do not happen henceforth.

The more creative people decided to take to the streets with plays and songs in order to discourage people from indulging in rapes and showing their solidarity with the rest of a few thousand morons who had already lined up.

The sole topic of conversation at every coffee shop, dining table and roadside tapri is the same- should rapists be given capital punishment or should they be chemically castrated? The same time has also been efficiently utilised by our politicians to come up with statements which conclusively puts their intellect at the same level as my maid’s pet mongrel.

Now, let me give you the facts and figures and explain why this phenomenon amuses and nauseates me at the same time.

Section 376(2) of the Indian Penal Code lays down the punishment for gang rape with rigorous imprisonment for a minimum of ten years which may extend to a life term, along with a fine. And now there is a call to reform the law and impose the death sentence. Now, one must understand that laws are not made overnight. The framers of these laws do not make them arbitrarily. They discuss every minute aspect in detail before coming to a conclusion. The increased number of rapes is not therefore due to a flaw in the law, but a flaw in the law enforcing authorities and agencies.

A 2009 report stated that there were more than 300 prisoners on death row, 28 of whom were waiting for presidential pardons, while the rest had appealed in front of the various appellate courts in the country. Since then, there has only been one execution, so it is only reasonable to assume that the numbers have increased. The rest of these 300-400 odd people are serving their time in prison, exactly the same way that they’d spend it, if they are convicted under Section 376 of the IPC.

Another report suggests that in India, a rape happens every 54 minutes. Barely a year back, NDTV published an article stating that Delhi has the maximum number of rape cases. Since then, very little has been done by the Delhi administration, and nobody seemed bothered about it, till this particular girl got raped.

Subsequent to the girl getting raped, she has been termed as a ‘braveheart’ and received the name ‘Damini’ from the Bollywood movie where the protagonist fights to protect a rape victim. Let me clarify here, there is nothing brave that the girl did. What happened to her was unfortunate but it was not a danger she faced knowingly, and neither did she manage to overcome it. What then, was so “brave” about her act?

There were 414 rape cases reported in Delhi in 2010. What makes this stand out? Why was this girl different from the hundreds of others who are raped? There are women who are subjected to marital rape every single day, and their voices go unheard. Very often people do not even get to know about these cases. These women who manage to go through life facing trauma every day are braver than the girl who just died. But then again, uploading a status on gang rape and expressing your solidarity will surely get you more “likes” than something as drab as marital rape.

By symbolically naming the victim of the Delhi gang rape case, all that the media houses have managed to do is double their TRPs, and all that you idiots have managed to do is upload 6 meaningless statuses on facebook in a desperate attempt to show that you care, when you could not be bothered less, covered in your blanket with your cup of hot chocolate.

Two thirds of the world’s countries have abolished the death penalty and accepted that executions are unacceptable under any circumstance. Yet, we speak of chemical castration and death by hanging. So, it’s perfectly okay for us to behave in a barbaric fashion, but it’s wrong if a criminal commits a barbaric act? What then, is the difference between you and the men on the bus? The violent protests outside India Gate and the Presidential Palace have proven that the same barbaric mentality is prevalent amongst all Indians- all that differs is the degree and the way they express their barbarism.

The vast majority of women who get raped do not have the means to be transported and treated in Singapore. By treating this case specially, you, the Indian aam aadmi, have proven yet again, that your empathy can only reach out to those who can afford it.

By making this a public spectacle, you have successfully raped whatever was left of the victim’s dignity. And mind you, since all of you have done it together, and on various platforms simultaneously, it is as good as gang rape.

Our society has always needed something that they can discuss relentlessly, and pretend to feel passionate about, over a cup of steaming chai. For the past twenty three years, it has been Sachin Tendulkar. I guess his shoes have been filled up pretty soon after his retirement. Well done! I am sure your mothers and sisters are proud of you.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Shashi Tharoor versus Narendra Modi.

They have both been trending on twitter. The news channels are going gaga whenever either of them sneeze or look at a fly. And everyone, from the chaiwalla to college students are talking about them.

So what’s the big deal? Who said what to whom? And more importantly, who is right and who is wrong? In the end, apart from that, there’s very little that matters.

Instead of going into what the media has already been rattling over the past couple of days, I shall directly go into what I feel about both the men in question, and the topic being so hotly discussed and deliberated upon.

Both the men need no introduction. Anyone with an iota of general knowledge know them both.

So, after the recent cabinet reshuffling which took place, Shashi Tharoor regained his place in the Ministry from which he had quit in 2010. Following which Narendra Modi at one of his election rallies referred to Tharoor’s wife as a “50 crore girlfriend”. To which Mr. Tharoor replied that his wife was priceless and said that to understand that one has to love a person, which Modi is incapable of.  One would not expect anything else from a man whose wife has just been taken a pot shot at in public.

However, the debacle doesn’t end there. BJP Vice President, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has gone on to respond to Tharoor by calling him an “International Love Guru” and suggesting that the Government should open a Ministry of Love Affairs for him.

Meanwhile, everyone seems to have an opinion on what has been going on. Even if they have no clue whatsoever, they are going ahead with the bandwagon and giving yet another uninformed opinion.

So here’s what I think about it from the bits that I know of both the people.

On the one hand, we have Shashi Tharoor.

I had met him briefly at a Model United Nations conference a couple of years back at Ethiraj College in Chennai where I was chairing the Security Council. Mr. Tharoor was the guest of honour. Till then, I didn’t know anything about him except what Wikipedia had to offer. Mrs. Tharoor (Sunanda Pushkar) had also been present there.

Having heard and read about Shashi Tharoor and his achievements, we were slightly apprehensive. After all, who knows how a high flying politician-diplomat might behave when he is confronted with 200 college kids, all of them far below his own intellectual standards. Surprisingly, however, he turned out to be one of the wittiest, most charming and entertaining speakers that I have come across till date. He interacted with everyone without any restraints whatsoever.

Following which, I started researching more on him. Not only reading about him, but also what he had to say on various different agendas. I even read ‘The Five Dollar Smile And Other Stories’ written by him, and absolutely loved it.

Shashi Tharoor is probably one of the few Indian politicians I have respect for. The reasons being:
  • He is one of the few extremely well educated politicians around. Having graduated from St. Stephens, he went on to earn a Phd from  The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, arguably one of the finest institutions in the world, and that too at the age of 23.
  • He is also one of the younger politicians India has, which means he doesn’t have to think twice in order to move his ass and get work done. 
  • He has been the Under Secretary General of the United Nations, and was almost elected as the Secretary General, losing out by a very narrow margin to Ban-ki-Moon.
  • Add to that, he is classy, well spoken, dignified and a good writer.

On the other hand, we have Narendra Modi. Now let us take a note at Mr. Modi’s credentials, shall we?
  • Mr. Modi graduated with political science from Gujarat University. Nothing against GU, but it seems kinda bland when compared to a Phd from Fletcher.
  • There are several links which connect him to the 2002 Godhra riots, which if proven, makes him a mass murderer and terrorist. And by the way, the links were strong enough for the United Kingdom to not deal with Modi in any way for a decade after the riots, and for the United States to deny him a visa on grounds of violations of religious freedoms. 
  • He belongs to arguably the most right winged, fundamentalist, Hindu political party in the country and has been the Chief Minister of Gujarat for more than a decade.
  • I would have appreciated his oratory skills, but shouting into a microphone with folded hands and inciting hatred doesn’t really count as a skill, so I’ll skip that part.
  • Oh, and before you accuse me of being biased, yes, he has made Gujarat one of the fastest developing states in the country.

As for Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the less spoken of, the better.

Coming back to the point. It was also ironic to note that Modi, who himself has several scam allegations to his name calling Mrs. Pushkar a “50 crore girlfriend”. Even if she is, surely he should be the last person who has the right to call her that.

On a concluding note, these are the opinions I have gathered via reading newspaper articles, magazines, and watching the television. I refuse to make an uninformed opinion. And as a prudent man, this is the wisest conclusion I could come to: If anyone ever called someone I love something derogatory, and that too in public, I would not hesitate before throwing him into a pool full of piranhas. And besides, if anyone has the right to insult someone, he must have better credentials than the person being insulted. In this case, even that is clearly missing.

The least that a person can do when his wife is being publicly insulted is stand up for her. The fact that Tharoor hasn’t replied with anything insensitive to Modi shows what a gentleman he is, though personally, I think he should give the old guy a piece of his mind.

And the least that the Chief Minister of a State can do is maintain some dignity and decorum instead of taking unnecessary pot shots at people just to increase the TRPs and have a bunch of ignorant idiots hooting to his comments.

For the benefit of the readers:

                                                        A conversation I had on twitter


Friday, 14 September 2012

Suicide In Media College (S.I.M.C)

On the 13th of September 2012, Rishik Sharad, a first year student of a media college in Pune was found hanging in his hostel room.

Subsequently, their film fest which was supposed to begin on the 14th got postponed. I learnt of the film fest being postponed before I had learnt of the suicide. I found it strange because after a couple of fests with downright poor turnout because of their marketing skills (by the way, marketing happens to be one of the subjects students of this institute specialize in), the students had actually managed to build up some hype around this particular fest, only to postpone it a day before it was supposed to be held. Hence, I found it odd and highly unprofessional. Within a few hours, I learnt of the incident which had led to the fest getting cancelled.

Being a strong believer in the power of social media, I tweeted the incident, along with a few legal provisions dealing with suicide (which being a law student, I am intrinsically interested in), with the relevant articles which had been published on online newspapers.

In the next few hours, my facebook inbox was flooded with abusive messages, accusing me of being unethical and trying to blow an issue out of proportion from students and ex-students of this “reputed” institute. I also received several phone calls regarding the same, asking me to remove the posts immediately. I still fail to see how disseminating information about an event (which by the way is already available on several news websites) amounts to blowing it out of proportion.

Now let us look at the irony of this situation.

As soon as the incident happened, the students were informed not to post the incident on twitter/ facebook/ other social networking websites. One of the students also wanted me to remove my posts citing college authorities of the media institute, who I’m not bound to obey under any circumstance. According to rumours, media houses had also been called by this institute in order to not circulate the news. If they did, clearly it didn’t work.


The messages and calls I received accused me of hurting the lost soul’s sentiments. Now, what I find strange is that none of the posts are directed at the student who has lost his life. A teenager losing his life is indeed a sad incident. However, I fail to understand how tweeting the relevant news articles might hurt his, his parents’ or his friends’ sentiments.

The freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed to me by the Constitution of India under Article 19(1)(a).  The freedom of the press has also been allowed under the same article.

Also, these media students are the same ones who cry for a free press all the time, only to conveniently change their stance, if the matter relates to them or their institution. If this is the standard of journalists and media personnels which are being churned out, I have a bad feeling as to where the Indian press is headed in the years to come.

A student also came and pointed out to me that some of the newspaper reports were factually incorrect, since some of the reports had got the first name of the deceased wrong, and had reported that college had started 6 months ago, instead of 3 months.

As far as I’m concerned, the first name really makes no difference to the fact that a student opted to take his life. As for the second allegation, it only has bearing if the college or the college authorities had a role to play in the boy taking his life. In no way am I hinting that was what happened  in this case, but there is always the slight possibility.

Now, if a certain person(s) has done any act which led to this unfortunate event, the person(s) can be booked under Section 306 and Section 107 of the Indian Penal Code for abetment of suicide, and if that is found out to be the case after police investigations, I sincerely hope that the proceedings are carried out and the concerned people are put behind bars, for the sake of justice, good conscience and equity.

A few weeks back I had lost a dear friend of mine in a car accident and had tweeted about the same. Incidentally, it was a professor from this very same institute who had pointed out that it was the girl’s fault, according to what he had read in newspapers reports. It was he who taught me how to differentiate between something based on facts/logic/reports and emotion. As a third person I have the right to read articles on a public forum, share those articles and even have my own opinions on them. I see nothing wrong with propagating my opinions formed on the basis of newspaper articles, just as the professor had nothing wrong in propagating his.

The icing on the cake was when one of these guys accused me of defamation. Now, I do not blame him for his lack of intellect, or ignorance, for that matter. However, even if a person considers a certain statement to be defamatory, truth is a justification to defamation and prima facie the burden of proof is on the other person to prove that defamation has occurred. So far, none of them have been able to provide me with a valid justification as to how defamation has occurred.

As a concluding statement, I shall reiterate that while tweeting, I did not intend to offend the family members and friends of the deceased. And provided they are prudent men and women, they would have found nothing offensive in the reports being circulated. However, the state of wannabe journos in our country has left me with a sense of disgust. It is because of people like these, that our country is still in such a horrible state. Simply because they have the power (mind you, I say power, not gift) of the gab and decide to use it to their convenience.

I sincerely hope that they realize where they have gone wrong, instead of trying to go on with a failed cause of trying to make me stop posting, because clearly, just like the fests that they have formerly hosted, their efforts are going in vain for a cause which will eventually turn out to be unsuccessful.

Instead, let us mourn the loss of a young life, and sincerely hope, that if there were any people who led him to take his life, they are held accountable for their actions.

For the benefit of the readers, here are the links to the news articles which were published:

Indian Express:

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Green State

At the very outset, let me clarify that I’m not an environmentalist. Neither am I affiliated to any political party, though I’m likely to get branded as a Maoist after writing this article. I’m just an average twenty year old who has grown up in Calcutta and learnt to love the city and the state. And my curiosity propels me to question the numerous anomalies that I notice all around me. At this point of time, I think it is also of significance to mention that I’ve been working with a Non Governmental Organization of considerable repute, which strives to provide a better life to underprivileged kids belonging to the lower strata of society. This organization works hand in hand with the Kolkata Police, since many of these kids are rescued from situations where they are being beaten and tortured at home, or are being rehabilitated after committing minor crimes or resorting to substance abuse.

5th June. World Environment Day. A concept which has never been too popular in India. However, times are changing. Ever since Mamata Banerjee took oath as Chief Minister of West Bengal, she has promised to make Calcutta the equivalent of London, and Darjeeling the equivalent of Switzerland. Apart from the minor differences in weather, she has taken the rest all upon herself to ensure this happens. Which means, just like the West, it is now imperative for the state to celebrate World Environment Day. Fair enough. As long as it is benefitting the environment and the people, I see no reason to complain.

I was told to report to the Gariahat Police Station at 7.30 in the morning to help the NGO with a rally in support of the environment. When I asked how it is related to child rights which is supposed to be my only concern as an intern for the NGO, I was told that the police supports all our work, and hence it is our duty to support them when they ask for it, regardless of whether it is related to child rights or  not. So I arrived at 7.30 only to be greeted by a cop sitting languidly with a bunch of street kids. Gradually, however, the kids were brought in to fill up a bus, and by the time it started moving it was 8.45.

The rally was supposed to start at Harish Mukherji Park. However, due to the incompetency of one of the policemen who was guiding the driver, we managed to reach the Maidan. After waiting for a quarter of an hour, somebody had the bright realization that they had reached the wrong destination. So, everyone packed inside the bus again, and it left for Harish Mukherji Park. By the time we reached Harish Mukherji Park, the rally had already left. The same bright policeman was now struck with the idea of making the bus somehow catch up with the rally. So, once again, the bus turned and started moving towards Rabindra Sadan. By the time we reached Rabindra Sadan, the rally had come to an end and the people had already dispersed.

Everyone was handed an ID card of sorts in support of the environment and given free t-shirts, blue and white, like the rest of the city with the government’s name, and “World Environment Day: In Support of a Green Economy” printed in green. They also received caps with similar colours and designs. At this point of time, I’d like to point out that the recipients of these t-shirts are mostly illiterate and had no clue as to why they were there in the first place. They had been promised free food, and they had obliged by showing up. As people were told to put on their t-shirts, they haphazardly removed the plastic covers and threw them on the floor. The organizers of the event and the police stood watching, but no-one said a thing, as the entire area got strewn with plastic packets. So much for the environment!

Everyone was lined up, and made to enter the auditorium where a few hundred, maybe thousand, people, mostly people from the lower strata of society and party workers, were seated awaiting a special programme organized by the state government for World Environment Day. In the background, Tagore was playing, as nothing in this state is complete without flaunting a bit of our culture, is it? Interestingly, the previous day, when I had shown one of the kids a picture of Tagore and asked him if he knew who it was, he had no idea whatsoever. This kid, and several others like him, was now seated as part of this elite audience.

The dignitaries involved included the Commissioner of Police, the Minister of Commerce and Industries, Mr. Partha Chatterjee, the Minister of Transport, Mr. Madan Mitra, and the likes. Due to Mr. Chatterjee getting delayed, the audience were made to wait endlessly. Meanwhile, the master of ceremonies ranted on about the environment. She exclaimed how her son in Switzerland had told her about the steps taken by the Swiss government to cut out noise pollution, and how she felt the same must be implemented here. The mere mention of “Switzerland” excited more than half the audience, most of who are financially incapable of travelling beyond the borders of the city.

In the midst of such high end drama, I couldn’t help but notice the huge flex in the background with the government’s proclamation of aid to the environment taking up half of it, while Mamata Banerjee’s face covered the rest. Splendid use of resources to commemorate the occasion. Also, on stage, were a group of colour co-ordinated (white, blue and green) women who were present to sing and entertain the audience. As if the recorded Rabindrasangeet hadn’t already quenched my thirst for music on a day which almost hit 40 degree Celsius and the humidity was more than 80 percent. 

                                              The stage before the ceremonies began

 It was at this point of time that I felt I had had enough trash for a lifetime and decided to leave the auditorium. I have always avoided Ekta Kapoor serials, so clearly there wasn’t any need for me to subject myself to something a hundred times worse. As I walked outside, I noticed how the entire area was full of plastic packets, food packets, and disposable glasses.

Too tired to really care about anything else in the world, I hailed a cab and started moving towards my house. But apparently, the show was yet to go on. As I sat in the cab which was as stationary as the leaves on the trees, I noticed a truck which had been covered with flexes on all sides. They all said the same thing. “Save the Environment- An Initiative by the Government of West Bengal”. And on the truck was a tree. Yes, that’s right. A tree. And then I noticed the second truck. And the third. And so on. In their effort to promote the environment, the government had put a tree on a truck and was making the truck go all around the city. Screw the rising price of diesel and the emissions they were producing. The West Bengal government might have a debt of 200000 crore INR, but they can afford the price of diesel, and as long as the public are left in awe of a moving tree, they don’t mind polluting the air as well. So now we can add air as well to the limitless list of things in the state which have been polluted by the government.

                                  The truck with the tree... Spreading “greenery” in the city

As I finally reached home and rushed towards the comforts of my room, I couldn’t help but spare a thought at the amount of resources which had been wasted for putting up this show. Right from printing flexes with our honorary Chief Minister’s face on it, to providing free t-shirts, caps, identity tags and food. All the paper, paint and other resources which had been used. And all the litter which would have accumulated by the end of it.

Now, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m not an environmentalist. Nor do I have a hidden political agenda. Out of all the happenings of the day, I was most disturbed by the fact that I had to wake up at 7 am for something as nonsensical as this. But by the end of it, I was left with another thought.

For the past one year, the newly elected Trinamool government has been trying to eliminate all traces of red and make West Bengal a green state. From banning Marx in schools to asking people not to marry into families with CPI(M) members, and even changing the name of the state, they have gone out of their way to provide the state with an identity which is completely different from the one which we have had for the three and a half decades which preceded that. However, on the occasion of World Environment Day, the city of Calcutta was filled with various colours. And green definitely wasn’t one of them.