Thursday, September 20, 2018

Tere Jaisa Yaar Kahaan - Cover

I recorded this song for two good friends who had made a farmaish (request) to sing this song. This song is not just for them but for all my wonderful friends.

Original Singer: Kishore Kumar
Lyrics: Anjaan
Composer: Rajesh Roshan

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Phoolon ka taaron ka - From a lucky brother

On the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, for my lovely sisters...

Movie/Album: Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971)
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Music: R. D. Burman
Original Singer: Kishore Kumar

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Bullshitting: Can you tell what's wrong with this picture?

Image may contain: text

Can you identify what is wrong with the above picture that is taken from the Twitter feed of The Indian Express? Several things actually, but you will probably not be able to identify them until you click on the news article (written by Shaju Philip, dated June 26, 2018) and read it completely.

If you only read the headline of this news article on some social media platform--which is a very common practice these days--you will most likely end up with the impression that five Hindu priests sexually abused and blackmailed a woman. After all India is a Hindu majority nation, so the usage of the term "priests" in the headline should most likely mean Hindu priests. Right? Even the sketch accompanying the news headline and article has been (perhaps deliberately) made in saffron color, a color most strongly associated with Hinduism. So why would you be wrong to assume that the culprits here were Hindu priests? It's only when you read the article, do you realize that priests referred to in this article were actually Christians. 

It is not just the Indian Express that is guilty of providing misleading anti-Hindu headlines. Many other mainstream newspapers do the same regularly. For example, take a look at the screenshot below from a DNA India news article dated May 23, 2018 (written by DNA Web Team):

If you only read the headline of this news story, you will be sure that this is a case of a Hindu priest raping a woman. After all, the term tantrik generally refers to a Hindu priest who practices the ancient Hindu tradition of tantra. After reading the first paragraph of the article, you will be damn sure that the article is referring to a Hindu priest, because it talks about the victims' belief in tankriks and babas, and how the culprit lived in an ashram. The term baba again typically refers to a Hindu ascetic, and ashram is a Hindu hermitage or monastery. So why would you suspect that the culprit in this case is not a Hindu priest? Only after you reach the second paragraph of the article and read the name of the rapist (Rahmat Ali Sheikh is a Muslim name) do you realize that the rapist is a Muslim priest.

Here are couple more recent examples: 
  1. Headline from The Times of India, dated April 13, 2018 (written by Aamir Khan): Delhi: Tantrik gets 10 years in jail for rape and extortion
  2. Headline from The Hindu, dated April 26, 2018 (written by Staff Reporter): Woman accuses tantrik of rape

In both these cases the actual culprits were Muslim priests, but you won't know that unless you carefully read through the news articles. You have to literally read these articles with the eye of a diligent researcher or a detective to notice the true religion of these rapists, because the authors made sure to hide that information deep within the text of articles. In The Times of India article, you realize that the rapist is a Muslim priest only after you reach the second paragraph when you find out that his name was Warsi (a Muslim surname). Similarly, in The Hindu article, you discern the rape accused to be a Muslim priest only after you have read about 60% of the article and come across the information that the accused was supposed to perform certain rituals for the victim at the Ajmer dargah (a Sufi shrine in Rajasthan).

I am neither anti-Christian nor anti-Muslim. Some of my closest friends are Christians and Muslims. However, I strongly oppose mainstream media's deliberate attempt to malign Hinduism. I had discussed this a few months ago in context of the Kathua rape case. And frankly, it doesn't give me pleasure to write about this issue again. However, the anti-Hindu onslaught of the media just seems to be getting stronger by the day. I don't fully understand why many media houses in India are so anti-Hindu. It seems like many of the media houses have been corrupted by either Marxist philosophies and/or are owned by people who are anti-Hindu. It is an irony (or perhaps a convenient deception) that some of the publications from these media houses have the word "Hindu" in their names (e.g., The Hindu or The Hindustan Times). 

Frankly, I don't mind some people harboring anti-Hindu sentiments, because there will always be some prejudiced individuals. It's difficult for people indoctrinated within dogmatic traditions to appreciate Hinduism, that is easily one of the least dogmatic and least tyrannical religions in the world. Not that Hinduism is perfect. It sure has certain practices that deserve to be critiqued. However, deliberately hiding truths and using blatant lies to denigrate Hinduism and demonize Hindus is something that is completely unacceptable.

The Illusory Truth Effect
The anti-Hindu and "Breaking India" forces are using the Goebbels principle of "manufacturing a lie so big and repeating it so often, that people start believing it as the truth." We know from research done in the field of Social Psychology by Fazio and her colleagues that such techniques do succeed in creating an "illusory truth effect," which refers to the finding that people do start believing false claims when they are exposed to them multiple times. The number of times media houses have been caught peddling bullshit is impossible to quantify here, but I am sure you must have come across many such instances.

What Can You Do?
So is there no way out of getting over the bullshit peddled by media houses? Yes there is, although it is not an easy task. Here are three things that all of us can do to counter anti-Hindu (or any other form of) bullshit:
  1. Enhance your bullshit detector abilities: This is a skill that develops over time, but at the very basic do not believe everything that you read, especially news headlines. At least read through the articles that are of interest you to verify if the headline claims are in consonance with main text of the article.
  2. Check for evidence and Crosscheck Other Sources: Sometimes even the main text of the article may not be truthful. So it is important that you critically evaluate the claims made in the article. Detecting bullshit in an author's argument is again a skill that is enhanced by training. But at basic level, ask "Do the authors provide any evidence for their claims?" If not, then it is a red flag. Sometimes authors may also provide incomplete evidence to mislead readers. So crosscheck facts from other sources by doing some web search.
  3. When you detect bullshit, don't be afraid to point it out: The only way to counter bullshit is to bring it to the attention of others. In today's age of social media, you don't have to be a journalist or author to share your thoughts with others. When you detect any bullshit yourself or come across bullshit-detection made by others, share it generously on social media. It is true that sometimes rumors get spread on social media, but social media has also helped unravel important truths to the public.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Asaram Bapu & the importance of blacklisting fake babas

Today morning I heard the news that Asaram Bapu got sentenced to life imprisonment by the Indian Court system for finding him guilty of raping a 16 year old girl in 2013. Asaram Bapu is the same criminal guru who had said that the 2012 Delhi gang rape victim, Nirbhaya, could have avoided being raped and killed had she addressed "the culprits as brothers and begged before them to stop."

I am delighted that the criminal Asaram Bapu was convicted and given the highest possible sentence possible for the crime. The court specifically ordered against giving him any respite, meaning that he will have to serve his life sentence until his death. Criminals should be prosecuted in the toughest way possible, irrespective of their religious and political affiliations. I think that the conviction of Asaram Bapu is a victory of the Indian judicial system, because it demonstrates that it doesn't get easily influenced by pressure groups. More importantly, this is a triumph for the courageous girl, her family and everyone else who fought hard against the criminal baba.

I realize that some of the readers of my post may come from families who once trusted and followed the disgraced guru. When the allegations surfaced for the first time, they may have even doubted the rape victim. And this is understandable, because unfortunately false rape allegations do happen in this world. Also, when we don't have access to all the relevant facts of the case, it is sensible to give the benefit-of-doubt to the person whom we have trusted and respected for a long time. However, we should definitely stop supporting a person once the impartial court system has found him guilty. Thankfully, I haven't seen a single Indian, including the Hindus, expressing dissatisfaction with respect to the court's verdict (except the culprit's lawyer, of course). 

According to me, the Hindus have always been pretty good at denouncing unscrupulous babas, probably because the traditions of Hinduism have always emphasized individual seeking over collectivistic conformity. That is the reason there is no punishment for apostasy in Hinduism. And that is also the reason why Hindus may find it easier to speak up against a religious leader whom they suspect to be corrupt. However, the human psyche is weak, so the temptation to find succour in charismatic cult leaders is always there. Last year the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP), an apex organisation of Hindu Sants (saints) and Sadhus (ascetics) in India took a step in this regard by publishing a list of fake babas in India. Specifically, they blacklisted 17 fake babas, including Asaram Bapu. I hope ABAP continues publishing such lists every year to make sure that innocent people don't fall victim to the traps of these monsters.

Some of the fake babas who have been blacklisted
However, what should not be done is the shaming of the followers of these babas, because except for a few core members, the majority of the followers of these babas are innocent people who are completely oblivious of their misdeeds. I think even most politicians who share stage with these babas are likely to be unaware of their criminal activities. That is the reason I don't blame either the Congress, National Conference, or BJP politicians who in the past had shared stage with Asaram Bapu. Unfortunately, leftist media personalities, such as Vinod Dua, only highlighted the BJP politicians who had shared the stage with Asaram Bapu. Further in the same video commentary,  Vinod Dua attempts to create the false impression that sexual abuse happens only within the Hindu religious organizations, although again, this should not be surprising given the strong leftist bias of our media houses. But that is a topic for another discussion.

...To be continued.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Kathua Rape Case and 'Breaking India' Forces

A large part of my news and social media feed recently has been filled with reports and opinions related to the brutal rape and murder of an 8-year old girl named Asifa Bano in India. According to the reports:
The little girl, who came from a small village in the Jammu region of  the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), was abducted by some Hindu miscreants. They locked her up inside a nearby temple, and raped her several times for a week before killing her by strangulation. Her battered body was found close to the temple a week after she had gone missing.

Even if you are not an Indian, you are likely to have come across this news, because it got huge international coverage.
The New York Times tweeted (@nytimes) April 11, 2018, "In India, the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl has led to protests by Hindu nationalists — coming to the defense of the accused.
Barkha Dutt reported in the Washington Post, "Hindu ‘nationalists’ defend accused rapists and shame India."

The case in question had actually happened in early January, so why was the national and international media reporting it only in April? This was supposedly because the "Hindu nationalists" were trying to defend the rapists.

Like most people, I too was gullible to believe these reports. Rape is anyway one of the most heinous crimes possible. But hearing about a little kid getting raped is extremely distressing. The thought that people were defending the rapists of a little kid for reasons of common religious identity was downright sickening.

Media's Falsehoods
However, as I started researching more about the incident, I found that a large part of what the media  has been airing was misleading and even factually incorrect. I won't go into the details of all those inconsistencies, but below is is a quick brief of some of the important ones.
  1. The "Hindu nationalists" who according to many media houses were "shamelessly defending the rapists" were actually demanding justice for the Asifa. In fact, in every interview that I have seen of these protesters, they always emphasized that they want the true rapists to be punished, and in the severest terms possible, irrespective of what religion they belonged to. Unfortunately, the partisan media houses continue to paint a different narrative.
  2. The "Hindu nationalists" were simply demanding that the case be transferred from the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the state government to the Central Bureau of Investigation (or CBI; this is the equivalent of FBI in USA). You can see this in the Bandh call given by the Hindu Ekta Manch in the first week of March. These "Hindu Nationalists" observed that SIT was not conducting a fair investigation, and was instead harassing all Hindus living in the vicinity, to the extent that many Hindu families had been forced to leave their villages. It certainly did not help that the SIT was also headed by a cop who had himself been accused of rape and murder in the past and had the reputation of being sympathetic to Kashmir separatists. CBI investigation has always been of much better quality than that of local police investigations, so how does demanding CBI investigation constitute to supporting rapists?
  3. According to the charge sheet filed by the SIT, the accused kept and raped the kidnapped girl in a village temple. However, as can be seen in this report, this seems impossible, because the temple was a small one-room building that was common to three different villages. That is the reason it had three doors in three different directions to allow villagers from the different villages to visit it at anytime of the day. How could a girl have been kept captive for a week in a small temple that was frequented daily by Hindus from local villages? Also, as pointed out in this video, a few meters away from where the body of the girl was found started deep forests. Why would the culprits throw the body of the girl close to the temple when they could have safely dumped the body in deeper forest?
    • For those who are not from India or are unfamiliar with Hindu traditions, it should be noted that Hindu temples aren't just visited on any one particular day of the week--as happens with Christian churches, for example. Since temples are frequented by devotees everyday of the week, it is difficult to imagine how no one noticed the poor girl if she had been locked up in this small temple. 
I stumbled on this picture while I was researching for this article. See how large parts of Kashmir (that occupied by Pakistan) have been cut off in this depiction of India's map? So have we Indians now given up our claim on POK? Picture Credit:
Many authors have written before about the Breaking India forces that exist within certain sections of the Indian media. I too had observed the divisive reporting of of some media personalities, but I had always given them the benefit of doubt. For example, I reasoned may be these journalists were just overenthusiastic when they "inadvertently" reported on the locations of our soldiers during the Kargil War on live television, thereby endangering the lives of our soldiers. Similarly, may be the Lutyen's media was supporting the leftist JNU students' slogan of "Bharat Tere Tukde Honge (India, may you be broken into fragments)" because they genuinely believed in the freedom of speech. I even thought that they never deliberately intended to denigrate Hinduism when they started using the revered word  of Bhakt (a Hindu devotee) derogatorily. However, given the deliberately misleading way that some media houses and personalities have covered the Kathua rape case, now I have no doubt in my mind that the Breaking India and Shaming Hindu forces are real. Sadly, this partisan media is also winning, at least going by the sentiments expressed on Social Media by some of my friends. People are generally gullible, so easily fall prey to the manipulative tactics used by these media powerhouses. But more on that in the next post.

...To be continued.