Please listen to me!

 

arguments4Argumentative Indian is a book by Nobel Prize-winning author, Amartya Sen.

The Argumentative Indian has brought together a selection of writings from Sen that outline the need to understand contemporary India in the light of its long argumentative tradition. The understanding and use of this argumentative tradition are critically important, Sen argues, for the success of India’s democracy, the defence of its secular politics, the removal of inequalities related to class, caste, gender and community, and the pursuit of sub-continental peace.

So far so good. But do we deserve to be allowed to argue? I have observed that in the public domain sometimes discussions are done for the sake of discussion. The level of such talks has reached the nadir; speakers have literally reached below the belt, pun intended. A male candidate talking about a female opposition member has made a statement, “I never knew that she was wearing a khaki chaddi (underwear) all these days.” Can one make an argument worse than this one?  Unfortunately, such statements are appreciated by their followers; nobody questioned the candidate while he spoke such vile words.

I am all for freedom of speech, but I would never like to live in an emergency like situation, nor would I like to live under a Hitler or a Mussolini. Everybody loves to argue, but it appears that the art of argument is lost at the altar of the new God, social media. The problem is that even in the public domain, the arguments done in Loksabha or Rajyasabha are more about personal attacks on each other from the ruling as well as opposition parties. Logical speeches are a rarity these days.

Another observation is that social media has created world-class commentators, in thousands. Everybody comments on politics, Indian cricket team selection, whether Priyanka Chopda is pregnant or not! Not only that but there are big fights shown on TV under the names like “Big Fight”, and the same gets reflected on WA groups. On Facebook, people write essays about how Modi is wrong or how Rahul Gandhi does not know anything. It is possible that the writer in every person is waking up, thanks to cell phone and easy to use keyboards in all languages.

About political arguments, the older you become rigid are your views. So on WA groups fighting tooth and nail about your point of view does not make sense. I have known of a few cases where childhood relationships became tense because of such arguments. Another important aspect we forget is that it is not worth fighting on issues on which we have no control. People take Alcohol; some like whisky and some like to drink wine. Some are fond of Beer, and some are Vodka fans. Of course, there are some teetotallers. Is it right that teetotaller calls others drunkards? Can teetotallers be called conservatives? Each person has his/her own way of living life; we should respect the views.

I recently read a poem धूप में घोडे पर बहस (Arguments about a Horse) by Kedarnath Singh. It is fascinating to understand how the poet has looked at the word बहस (argument or discussion).

Three friends were sitting in the Sun (must be winter time) discussing a horse. The first one said that the horse is lovely and the second friend added that the horse is sturdy! The third one said that if the horse is so sturdy then we should not even discuss it. The first friend shouted, “What do you mean we can’t discuss”? The second one said, “Of course, we can discuss.” The third friend looked pleased as he blew the cigarette smoke and said, “But where is the horse?” First one said, “So what if the horse is not there, we can always discuss about him.” The second one said, “I have never seen a horse in ages.” The third one said, “The population of horses is reducing fast”. The second one said, “Why is the population reducing?” The first one said, “That is because horses are being sold.” Now it is immaterial which friend said what. Just enjoy the arguments. “Who buys so many horses?” “We can get this number from somewhere!” “Why, why we can not get the numbers?” Then the first one whispered, “God knows what these numbers will reveal?” Finally, the third one shouted as if coming out of a trance, “Friends, one day we will know the correct numbers and the real story will come out.” After this statement, there was pin-drop silence for a long time. How did Kedarnath know that this will be the future quality level of arguments?

Inferior is the quality of arguments that we have on TV channels and social media. Subjects may be essential for discussion, but the treatment and direction given to subjects are abysmal, sometimes the arguments are nasty. The title of the blog “Please listen to me” is ironical. The word please is never used in discussions these days. In public domain people do and say anything to earn some brownie points.

What is an argument? There are many definitions of arguments, but I have chosen a couple of them.

  • a reason given for or against a matter under discussion
  • an angry quarrel or disagreement

The argument is a way of life and is used at home, in business, in education, in research besides many other areas. While arguing both sides are expected to be professional and polite, giving respect to each other. In science, the argument is put forth in trying to prove something new which may be compared with an existing method, process or a product. By arguing, different points of view come forward. The idea is to discuss and find the best possible solution or resolution to issue being discussed. But every time it may not be an issue. When two people from opposing political parties argue, they are putting their thoughts in front of us and are trying to prove how their party or candidate is better than the other.

I feel that the maturity, dignity, and style are more important while arguing. Shouting match starts when nobody has a better argument, or it reflects on that person’s culture! The discussion should be talking about the chosen subject matter and  unparliamentary words should never be used.

In a housing society committee except for the head, all were young people. This head used to shout to prove his points. In the first meeting after I joined the committee, this person started shouting to prove his point. I told him to speak normally, but he argued that his voice was loud. I told him “Sir, learn to speak softly and then speak, otherwise you need not to speak.” After this incident, he never shouted again.

arguments1

Now regarding the arguments/ shouting match on social media, above mentioned rules should be followed more rigidly. The groups that are formed are for a specific reason. The groups can be an alumni group, office groups, ex-office groups, society group, and many more. But all these people come together because of a specific reason. On such groups, one should not make unnecessary political arguments; these are uncalled for and counterproductive. For those who are politically minded, should form a separate group and keep on doing what they feel is right. My observation is that all groups 90 to 95% are not interested in such arguments.

Kedarnath Singhji has found it long back the way people argue. He has explained it in a light-hearted manner. So, let us go by his advice and suggestions, refrain from arguing on social media and if you are in an argument, use the word “Please”! Let me assure you good arguments are fun, and they are enjoyable, if done the right way!

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Strange Political Bedfellows!

My resolve of not writing about political things is broken again. The happenings in Bangalore are such that many thoughts come to mind and I see that the same things get repeated again and again and again! This is irrespective of parties involved. Why people take decisions like the one taken by BJP is simply beyond my understanding. It is said that you see strange bed fellows in politics and it gets proven again.  

Years back, Quattrocchi an Italian Businessman was being haunted by Indian officials for his misdeeds in India. They went to Malaysia to arrest him. The then Indian Prime Minister Deve Gowda’s government had vigorously taken action against this Italian national. The Prime Minister had formed the government in Delhi, with support of Indian Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi! She was against this action but government rightly pursued the case (How can you arrest an Italian Friend?). Quattrocchi simply told our officials that there is no extradition treaty between India and Malaysia; our officials came back empty handed. Within a few days Sonia Gandhi, the then Goddess, “punished” Deve Gowda by withdrawing support for his government and Deve Gowda had no option but to resign. After so many years, Deve Gowda and his son are sleeping with congress again. That is politics! Everything is forgotten if there is benefit.  

Besides the political aspects of the matter, I want to take a look at human aspect too. I hardly know much about Yeddyurappa, the deposed Chief Minister. We forget that all the persons involved in the drama are human beings. What must be his condition now? He simply was a pawn in the power game that is known as politics. I would not like to be in his place. He appears like a sacrificial lamb on the altar of political games. How much time he will take to come out of this? It is very difficult to judge. The stress that he must be personally going through, various things people talk about him, various analysis that people will make, he will be declared as a dark demon. People forget that he is one of many dark demons.  

I remember an incident from my college days. I was selected for a lecturer’s post, while completing my Masters in Engineering. There was another candidate who came last in interviews. He was from reservations class. Somehow, he could never fit anywhere in the process of selection. I took the post and later left the college to join the industry, after completing my education. But the atmosphere created in the selection process, left such a bad test in my mind that it took a few years for this bitter test to go away. In spite of my selection being rightful in all respects, a bit of turmoil happened. Even while writing about this event, which happened 50 years back, I am very uncomfortable. 

Well, we say that all politicians have thick skins so they can absorb any shocks, any events good, bad or ugly. I don’t think so. A human being is a human being and any so called thick skinned person can take up only so much of muck, so much of ugly pressures, and after effects of events beyond control. I hope that, Yeddy will manage to over ride this menacing wave of events, on which he never had any control! 

Now to the event. I have seen and heard many a times that law is blind or law is an Ass. I am not an expert in law so my comments will be like a common man, you and me. Why was BJP allowed to attempt to form a government? During the day, today, we will get more clarity of the position of law in this matter. Why did BJP create the absolutely un called for event? Had they not done so, Deve Gowda and Congress could have formed a government. Obviously, the first six month to one year would have been honeymoon period for their government. Then the political subterfuge would have started. Amit Shah and company are experts in that. They could have managed the numbers to change their skin colour to saffron as per political mathematics. How the heavens would have fallen if this was done later, post honeymoon period of Deve Gowda government, I do not know.

Maybe it boils down to 2019 elections. BJP wanted to complete their boast of Congress Mukt Bharat! It is a brilliant political slogan created by someone. But it seems that BJP has become obsessed with the slogan. They want to make sure that this happens by hook or by crook. Looks like a bit arrogance has crept in somewhere. It appears that BJP has started thinking that they are the destiny, they are the Gods. To remain at top of the game, anywhere, needs a very mature and stable state of mind. It looks like people are generally accepting the measures taken by BJP, for improvement of India as a nation. But BJP should not forget that the same people who put you on pedestal one day, will simply drop you. This may not happen by way of BJP losing the elections that take place from today to the big day in 2019! But they will simply keep on giving fractured mandate. This will ensure that nobody has real the Trump card in hand, pun intended!  

About Congress less said the better. It appears that they are going from bad to worse. They simply don’t want to understand that days of dynastic politics are over. Mr. Gandhi is no Indira Gandhi! He does not have charisma and the backing she had. She rose from the ashes of Emergency like a Phoenix and ruled India till she was assassinated. Rahul’s father and Indira’s son Rajeev, was a good person but was a misfit in the cauldron that is politics. Rahul appears to be a similar person and does not have towering personality like his grand-mother. BJP should allow him to taper off on his own. Karnataka episode has given Rahul’s career a bit of an oxygen!  

Is this going to continue in future? Yes, it will. Daru, Women and Power are the elixirs of the game called politics, and life in general. Modi’s and Shah’s of this world are street smart guys who know how to handle such situations. There are local variants in Bengal, UP. There are satraps like Mayawati, though currently not in power, who can control the mandate in the large state of UP. This can have effect on government formation in Delhi. What India needs on long term basis, is a stable government in Delhi, strong leader like Modi. Currently none of this appears to be seen on the horizon of any political party, other than BJP.  

But hopefully, the BJP think tank will wake up after Karnataka drubbing and take politics in the right direction! I am bothered only about my country, India; I want this to progress and governed strongly but not brutally. The world never respects weaklings. So, I hope that the better sense will prevail and such episodes will not be repeated! I also sincerely hope that system does not forget that it is formed by parts which are called humans like you and me! Please be a little soft on them!  

   

 

A little deviation!

I generally avoid writing about things that are in public domain and especially related to politics. But some recent events have forced me to temporarily tweak my rule, maybe just this one time! So, pardon me. Many actions in public domain are supposedly taken with elections in view, or some such ulterior motives. As usual ruling party and oppositions parties do not see eye to eye on most things. Only time both sides seemed to have come together, are during national emergencies. But there have been no such emergencies. I am not talking of this government or that party. 

Today I read about a small plane carrying Rahul Gandhi and his close aides, flying from Delhi to Hubli. It appears that as the flight was approaching Hubli, the airplane suddenly lost height, became unstable, and pilots lost control. This was during day time and weather was clear with no obvious winds. Pilots took charge of the plane by shifting from Auto Pilot to manual mode and landed safely. On landing, the entourage approached the police and lodged an FIR, claiming sabotage. The FIR is lodged against the pilots! Do pilots not know if the plane crashed, they will also die? I do not know why FIR was lodged. All, including crew were petrified. If someone wanted to kill the leader why will they put the lives of unknown persons also, in jeopardy? The plane could fall and kill a few on ground too! Are we such a vicious country that we will try to kill some senior leader because of elections? Are we a set of “Stupids” to react this way? Are we so malicious, that we want to charge our opponents of murder? After getting down, the complaint could have been made to authorities. These authorities could have been requested to stop flying the plane for thorough inspection. (apparently this is now done) Who advised this group of people to complain about saboteur? What is this, stupidity or viciousness, naivety?  

On the other side, due to the rise in Oil prices in international markets, petrol and diesel prices at home are also sky rocketing. With elections around in some states and national elections next year, this is supposedly a disaster for the current government. But they are sticking to basic finance rules and not taking any action to reduce these rates by way of subsidies. Sometime back, Indian petroleum sector was linked to international oil prices. A couple of years back, we got the benefits of very low petrol/diesel prices. Popular measures may be good politics but it is not good for the nation. This is an extraordinary courage being shown by the government.  

Supreme Court Chief Justice issue is one more such saga. I do not understand much about law of the land. But it was apparent from the beginning that this action was going to boomerang on the people who started the action. First and foremost was that the opposition parties could not form a coalition, based on similar thinking. The numbers were not there, and according experts, logic behind the action was not tenable. With this background there was no point in moving ahead. But why they moved forward is a mystery! Do they have no other agenda? Do they have nothing viable to pressurize the government?  

AFSPA is Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA), are Acts of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in what each act terms “disturbed areas”. Tripura government has withdrawn this act after 18 years. This was promulgated when situation there was bad and there was no option left. But somebody has reviewed this and taken a decision to withdraw these. This is creditable because generally nobody wants to bell the cat. Decisions in the government, are generally left to bureaucracy and their motto is status quo! Generally, there will be no review, things keep on lingering. One arm does not know what the other arm is doing! That reminds me of a small anecdote from Solapur district. In the district collector’s office, there was a file called “Report for the Queen”! Nobody knew what it was. But every month a group of officers was creating a mundane report, to be sent to the queen (of England), naturally! This procedure was started more than 100 years back during British Raj and continued till the year 2000! Review? What is that! 

Last but not the least is current China visit by our PM. Both our countries are large and with big population. Somehow China has been coming in the way of many things that India wanted to do on the world stage. May it be Pakistan, Sri Lanka or United nations China has always tripped India; on top of that there has been continuous probing on border posts in Himalayas. These type of skirmishes, are always stressful and can prove to be very expensive, even money wise, with no tangible results. Our PM has realized this and has taken first step to cool down tensions with China. There will be give and take, but we need to be pragmatic and keep our egos aside! That is the real diplomacy. I always felt that India was always lagging in finesse in diplomatic relations, though there has been improvement in last ten years or so. There were no declarations, no noise, just tête-à-tête between top bosses; it appears that meetings will be regular in future! I felt that this is a feather in the cap of our Government!  

Are we showing maturity in our governance? Are we not afraid to take steps which may be termed bold? But one thing is sure, we continue to be idiots, stupids and smart at the same time. Mainly the political arena has to change! Can we be a little smarter in our internal political moves also and try to be less confrontational? Hope we mature in this area too!  

Jaihind!