Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Crazy Mohan, Y.G. Mahendra and S.Ve. Shekhar: The Trio that cheapened and vulgarized the idea of drama

Alert: Those who like and adore Crazy Mohan, those who think Mohan, YGM and Sekar produce drama, those who consider everything is art and several others are requested to please skip this post all together. 

That drama as an art form is now confused with third rated jokes strung up together by an abysmal and pathetic story line meant to cater to the lowest common denominator in Tamil Nadu is because of the famous trio - Crazy Mohan, Y.G. Mahindra and S.Ve. Shekhar.

Comedy is serious business. Comedy can be intellectual as in 'Yes Minister' or even slapstick as in a Chaplin movie but even at its trivial form there's a difference between good comedy and mindless comedy. This trio pen comedy that is not just created by the mindless it is also created for those who are willing to be mindless at least for a duration or those who are generally mindless. 

It is pathetic to see this famous joke of Mohan being cited by several, "oh K.B. Sunderambal is such a singer that even after you switch off the radio you can hear her sing". That is a joke worth a laugh if a kid cracks it. Else it is a forgettable wise crack, not a line worth calling as a symbol of one's talent. Or maybe those who recall it do so only to highlight that that is the limit for Mohan. Maybe they're, unlike me, saying it without saying it.

It is numbing to see praises for 'Michael Madana Kama Rajan'. The only reason the movie is even watchable is to enjoy Kamal for a few minutes as the Palghat cook for how he slid into that lingo and accent. Even in that character after a few minutes Kamal becomes insufferable. The rest of the movie is Kamal's narcissism run amuck. Especially that Madan character is vintage Kamal, the arrogant 'I know all' type. It was nauseating even then to see a grown up Urvasi act like she's a kid who refused to grow up. The movie itself was pathetically like a pathetic stage drama in many places.

To call Mohan's comedy as rib tickling word play is a fraudulent characterization by those who don't know what a word play is. Mohan effortlessly catered to the lowest common denominator because that's all what he was capable. 

There was a time when Jeyamohan was known to write unsparing obituaries (Kamala Das) and biting sarcasm (Thoppi Thilakam). An aging Jemo has decided to be diplomatic and as a result the obituary is neither convincing nor is it stinging. He has lost his sting. Calling Mohan's dramas as belong to the 'Farce Drama' genre is THE farce. Mohan knew neither drama nor farce as drama. 

Now, some would argue that while Jeyamohan did not like Mohan’s drama he conceded a space for Mohan’s drama oeuvre in the wide spectrum of art. Did he? Anyway that’s a different discussion. 

Decrying Mohan’s drama is not to call for some Stalinist idea of conformity to some dogma that everyone has to adhere to. No one is calling for uniformity in art or anything intellectual. Let there be a million varieties but there cannot be a mindless variety that can be included along side a serious cognitive effort. Somehow there’s this prevalent notion in Tamil Nadu that entertainment is supposed to be so mindless that it requires a sort of cavity between the ears to enjoy it. Life needs levity and even the bawdy or trivial can provide it. But such levity is for the moment and is not looked back with fondness or pride or something worth recalling or recalling worth being associated with. To live we need bowel movements but no one recalls them as a memory.

Then there’s the completely silly, “why compare”. Human being make choices in every day life to some important moments too. From choosing a breakfast in a cafe to whom we date, who we have sex with, what car to buy, what concert to attend and much more life is driven by choice. Choice implies comparison and judgment. Judgment requires an intellectual process. We cannot escape this iron law.

The other feeble excuse is “you’re comparing apples to oranges”. Don't compare Raja Raja Chola with Akbar. Don't compare Brahadeeshwara temple with Taj Mahal. Don't compare this with that. Don't compare at all if you can. Please don't compare what I love and critique it because I love it. It is not that people hate comparisons. What people hate is the value judgment that’ll inexorably follow a comparison. Those who plead don't compare will be the first to compare two pants or sarees before they buy one. Sometimes it might even be a choice between a pant and a shorts. There’s always a denominator. Why is sculpture called frozen music? If one understood such phrases one would not plaintively complain “why compare?”

Nobel laureate S. Chandrasekhar in his book ‘Truth and Beauty’ would explore the idea of beauty and aesthetics across as unlikely a trio as Shakespeare, Newton and Beethoven. Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner would analyze creativity by looking at as varied historical figures as Stravinsky and Gandhi. ‘Apples and Oranges’. Bollocks.

‘Everything is art’. ‘This too is someone’s idea of art’. ‘Time will do the sifting’. Bollocks. A thousand years can pass and yet the notoriously pornographic Saroja Devi trash (I simply could not bring myself to call them ‘books’) will never become Kokkogam or ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’.

This abjectly unintellectual approach to art and literature is the singular biggest cause of Indian apathy towards treasures of art and history of India. When everything is equally art nothing is too valuable to be protected unless it is wrapped in religion where it is mindlessly worshipped and the mind is intentionally dumbed not to be intellectually inquisitive. This is why Indians would be seen by the scores in the Red Light area of Amsterdam but sparsely, if at all, seen at the Van Gogh Museum. This is why thousands would worship at Brihadeeshwara temple but it’d the foreign visitor craning his or her neck and peering at a carving with a binocular. This is why Indians would happily vandalize a work of art, particularly if it is not tied to worship.

Is there a proper way to conclude this blog/rant? No there isn’t. Because the situation is completely hopeless. Jeyamohan, if I remember correctly, once ridiculed the Tamil idea of comedy and today the same person is offering fig leaf excuses for Mohan. Hope died. Only resignation remains.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

ஜெயகாந்தனின் பார்வையில் நேரு, பெரியார், மதச் சார்பின்மை, ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ் மற்றும் பா.ஜ.க

பரவலான இந்தியர்களுக்கு அறிமுகமான ஆளுமைகளோ முதன்மைச் சிந்தனையாளர்களோ எதுவும் இல்லாத இந்துத்துவத் தரப்பு சமீப காலமாக முன்னெடுத்து வரும் தந்திரோபாயம் சர்தார் படேல், ராஜாஜி, காமராஜர் ஆகியோரையும் அம்பேத்கரையும் கூடத் தங்கள் தரப்பாகச் சுவீகரித்து முன்னிறுத்துவது. அதன் தொடர்ச்சியாகச் சில தமிழ் இந்துத்துவர்கள் இப்போது ஜெயகாந்தனையும் தங்கள் தரப்பாக முன் வைக்கிறார்கள். இவர்கள் எல்லோருமே இறந்து விட்டவர்கள் ஆதலால் அவர்களால் எதுவும் சொல்ல இயலாது என்பது மிகப் பெரிய சவுகரியம். ஆனால் வரலாறு அவ்வளவு எளிதாக வளைக்கக் கூடியதல்ல. அந்தப் பட்டியலில் பலரும் அவர்கள் சிந்தனைகளை, நம்பிக்கைகளைத் தெளிவாக எழுதியும் அவரவர் பதவிகளில் இருந்த போது செயலாற்றியும் வைத்தவை பதிவாகி இருக்கிறது. ஜெயகாந்தனைப் படித்தால் தெரியும் அவர் மோடிக்கு ஓட்டுப் போடுவாரா என்பது.

ஜெயகாந்தனின் பார்வை:

1977-2002 வரை ஜெயகாந்தன் பல பத்திரிக்கைகளில் அவர் எழுதிய அரசியல் கட்டுரைகளைத் தொகுத்து "எனது பார்வையில்" தலைப்பில் 2003 வெளியிடப்பட்டது. ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ், பா.ஜ.க, மதச் சார்பின்மை மற்றும் தேசியம் குறித்த அவர் பார்வையை அத்தொகுப்பில் இருக்கும் கட்டுரைகளின் ஊடாகத் தெளிவாக நிறுவலாம். இந்தப் பதிவு ஜெயகாந்தனின் பார்வைகளின் விமர்சனமல்ல. அது இங்கு நோக்கமில்லை. சில இடங்களில் அவர் கருத்து எனக்கு ஏற்புடையதா இல்லையா என்பதை மட்டும் சுட்டிக் காட்டுகிறேன். இக்கட்டுரையின் முதன்மை நோக்கம் சோ ராமசுவாமி மாதிரியான இந்துத்துவர் ஒருவரோடு ஜெயகாந்தனையும் தொடர்பு படுத்தலாமா என்ற கேள்விக்கான பதில் தான்.

இந்தக் கட்டுரைத் தொகுப்பில் முதலில் எரிச்சலுறச் செய்வது ஒவ்வொரு கட்டுரையும் எந்த இதழில், எப்போது வெளியிடப்பட்டது என்பதைக் குறிப்பிடாதது தான். ஆனால் கட்டுரையில் குறிப்பிடப்படும் சில நிகழ்வுகளை வைத்துத் தோராயமாகச் சிலவற்றைத் தேதியிட முடிகிறது.

மத மாற்றம், மதச் சார்பின்மை மற்றும் இந்துஸ்தானம்: 

எது மதச் சார்பின்மை என்று ஜெயகாந்தன் தெளிவுறக் கூறுகிறார்,
'செக்குலர்' என்பதற்கு 'எந்த ஒரு தனி மதமும் சாராத' என்பது தான் மெய்ப்பொருள். நடைமுறையில் செக்குலர் என்பது மத எதிர்ப்பு என்று கருதப்படுகிறது. கம்யூனிஸ ஆட்சியில்லாத ஜனநாயக நாடுகளில் 'செக்குலர்' என்பது மத எதிர்ப்பு அல்ல. 
அமெரிக்காவின் மிக முக்கிய அரசியல் சாசனத்தின் முதல் திருத்தம் அதைத் தான் சொல்கிறது. அரசு எந்த மத அமைப்பையும் நிறுவாது என்பதோடு எந்த மதமும் சுதந்திரமாகச் செயல்படலாம் என்கிறது.

திராவிட இயக்கங்களின் மதச் சார்பின்மை, மூட நம்பிக்கை எதிப்பு என்பதெல்லாம், "இஸ்லாம் அல்லாத, கிறிஸ்துவம் பௌத்தம் அல்லாத 'மத எதிர்ப்பு' என்பதை அவர்களின் நடைமுறையில் இருந்து அறியலாம்" என்கிறார்.

இக்கட்டுரை ஜெயலலிதா தலைமையிலான தமிழக அரசு 2002-இல் கொண்டு வந்த 'கட்டாய மத மாற்றத் தடைச் சட்டம்' காலத்தில் எழுதப்பட்டது. ஜெயகாந்தன் அச்சட்டத்தை ஆதரிக்கிறார் ஏனென்றால் அச்சட்டம் மத மாற்றத்தைத் தடைச் செய்யவில்லை மாறாக ஆசைக் காட்டியோ, அன்பளிப்பு அளித்தோ செய்யப்படும் மத மாற்றங்களை மட்டுமே தடைச் செய்தது அது ஒரு நெறிப் படுத்துதலே என்கிறார்.

இன்குலாப் எழுதிய "சாரே ஜஹான் சே அச்சா" பாடலின் கடைசி வரிகளாக வரும் "ஹிந்தி ஹை ஹம்! ஹிந்தி ஹை ஹம்! ஹிந்தி ஹை ஹம்! வதன் ஹை ஹிந்துஸ்தான் ஹமாரா" என்பதைக் குறிப்பிட்டு உருது மொழியில் இஸ்லாமியரான இக்பால் எழுதிய அக்கவிதை இந்தியர்கள் அனைவரும் இந்துக்களே "எங்கள் நாடு ஹிந்துஸ்தானம்" என்ற முழக்கம் மீண்டும் இந்தியர்களின் செவிகளில் ஒலிக்க வேண்டும் என்கிறார்.

"ஹிந்து மதம் என்ற ஒன்று எவராலும் நிறுவப்பட்டதோ, அந்த மதத்துக்கு எவரும் மாற்றப் பட்டதோ, எவரும் அதிலிருந்து விலக்கப்பட்டதாகவோ கதைக் கூடக் கிடையாது" என்கிறார்.

மேற்சொன்னவையெல்லாம் இந்துத்துவர்களுக்கு உவப்பானவை. அதனால் ஜெயகாந்தனை இந்துத்துவராகச் சித்தரிக்கலாமா என்ற முடிவுக்கு வருவதற்கு முன் ஒரு சிறு விமர்சனம்.

ஜெயலலிதா அரசு கொண்டு வந்த மத மாற்றத் தடைச் சட்டம் வெறும் நெறிப்படுத்துதல் அல்ல. அது இந்துத்துவ அரசியலுக்காகச் செய்யப்பட்டது தான். மதத்தால் மக்கள் ஏமாறக் கூடாதென்றால் அன்றாடம் அநேக இந்துச் சாமியார்கள் ஏமாற்று வேலையையும் அதில் சேர்த்திருக்க வேண்டும்.

காந்தி முதல் ஜெயகாந்தன் வரை மத மாற்றங்களின் சமூக நிர்பந்தங்கள் சரி வரப் புரிந்து கொள்ளப் படவேயில்லை என்பது தான் உண்மை. மீனாட்சிபுரத்தில் பல நூறு குடும்பங்கள் இஸ்லாமுக்கு மாறிய போது அது தமிழகத்தில் கொந்தளிப்பை ஏற்படுத்தியது. மீனாட்சிபுரத்துக்கே சென்று மதம் மாறியவர்களைப் பேட்டி எடுத்து ஜெயகாந்தன் 'ஈஸ்வர், அல்லா தேரே நாம்' என்றொரு நாவலை எழுதினார். அது நாவலாகவோ சமூக ஆய்வாகவோ கைக் கூடாத ஆக்கம். சமீபத்தில் தன் முனைவர் ஆய்வுப் பொருளாகத் திருமாவளவன் மீனாட்சிபுரத்தின் மத மாற்ற காரணிகளை ஆராய்ந்திருக்கிறார். அது இன்னும் எனக்குப் படிக்கக் கிடைக்கவில்லை. ஆனால் வெளியான சில பகுதிகளும் அந்நிகழ்வுக் குறித்து நான் படித்தறிந்தவையும் சொன்னவை அங்கு நிலவிய உயர் சாதி அடக்கு முறைக்கு அம்மத மாற்றம் ஒரு முக்கிய எதிர் வினை என்று.

இந்தியாவில் பிறந்த எல்லோரும் இந்துக்கள் என்பது எல்லாம் வெத்து வேலை. ஒரு கம்யூனிஸ்ட் பேசும் பேச்சே அல்ல அது. ஜெயகாந்தன் உண்மையிலேயே கம்யூனிஸ்டா என்றே விவாதிக்கலாம். ஜெயகாந்தன் அந்த மூலக் கவிதையைச் சரியாகப் புரிந்துக் கொண்டாரா என்பதும் கேள்வியே. விக்கிப்பீடியாவில் இருக்கும் வரிகள் சொல்வதெல்லாம் "ஹிந்தி ஹை ஹம்! வதன் ஹை ஹிந்துஸ்தான்". அதன் அர்த்தம் நாம் 'ஹிந்து' எனும் நிலப் பரப்பை அல்லது 'civilization' சார்ந்தவர்கள் என்பது தான். 'நாம் ஹிந்து மதம் சார்ந்தவர்கள்" என்ற அர்த்தம் வரவில்லை.

'சாரே ஜஹான் சே அச்சா' எழுதிய இன்குலாப் பின்னர் தீவிர பாகிஸ்தான் ஆதரவாளர் ஆனார். அக்கவிதையையே கூடச் சற்றே மாற்றி "நாம் எல்லோரும் முஸ்லிம் இந்த உலகம் நம் வீடு" என்று எழுதினார்.

எவரும் இந்து மதத்தில் இருந்து விலக்கப்பட்டதாக கதைக் கூடக் கிடையாதென்கிறார். அப்படியென்றால் பஞ்சமர்களுக்கு நேர்ந்தது என்ன?

ஜெயகாந்தன் அடிப்படையில் ஓர் மனிதாபிமானி என்பதை வள்ளலார் பற்றி அவர் ஆற்றிய உரை நமக்குச் சொல்கிறது. தெய்வத்தின் பெயரால் "பகைத் தீயை வளர்க்கும் மதாபிமானிகளைவிட" மத நம்பிக்கையற்றவர்களாயினும் "அன்பும் சமத்துவமும் நிலப் பெறப் பாடுபடும் நாத்திகவாதமுமே" உவப்பாக இருந்தக் காலத்தில் வள்ளலார் பற்றி அறிய நேர்ந்து வள்ளலாரை உள்வாங்கியவர் ஜெ.கே.

பெரியார் போற்றுதலுக்குரியவர்:

"பிராமணீயத்தையும் இந்து மதத்தையும் கடுமையாய் இழித்தும் பழித்தும் பேசிய பெரியார் இஸ்லாம் மதத்தில் சேரும் படி தாழ்த்தப்பட்டோரைத் தூண்டினார். ஐரோப்பாவைக் காப்பியடிக்கும்படி உபதேசித்தார்" என்று சொல்லி அதன் பொருட்டே பெரியாரின் கருத்துகளையு நிராகரித்ததாகச் சொல்கிறார் ஜெயகாந்தன். "கடவுளை நம்பாதிருந்த நான் கூடக் 'கடவுளை நம்புகிறவனெல்லாம் முட்டாள்' என்ற பெரியாரின் பொன்மொழியை ஆராயப் போய், கடவுளை ஆதரிக்கிறவனாகவும், மக்களுக்கும் கடவுளுக்கும் இருக்கும் உறவின் மகத்துவத்தைப் போற்றுகிறவனாகவும் மாற நேர்ந்தது" என்கிறார்.

பெரியாரின் பிராமணத் துவேஷத்தை எதிர்கொள்ள "உடம்பு கூசியது" என்றும் அத்துவேஷம் "தனிப்பட்ட முறையிலும் சமுதாய அளவிலும் ஆராய்ச்சிக்கே இடமில்லாத அநாகரீகம்" என நிரூபனமானதென்கிறார்.

பெரியாரின் நூற்றாண்டு விழா நடந்த ஆண்டில் எழுதப்பட்ட இக்கட்டுரையில் அவரது "கொள்கைகள், அவரது கோட்பாடுகள் பல எதிர்மறை அம்சங்கள்" கொண்டிருந்தாலும் "மண்ணில் மதத்தின் பெயராலும், சாதியின் பெயராலும், கடவுளின் பெயராலும் ஏற்றத் தாழ்வுகளும் அடிமைத் தனமும் ஒடுக்கு முறையும் நிலவுகிற வரை பெரியாரின் கொள்கைகளுக்குத் தமிழர்கள் கூட்டங் கூடு திருவிழா எடுத்துக் கொண்டு தான் இருப்பார்கள்" என்ற நம்பிக்கையைத் தெரிவித்து "மக்களின் அந்த உணர்ச்சி 'வகுப்பு வாத பிற்போக்கு வெறியர்களுக்கு எதிராகப் பயன்படுமாறு ஜனநாயக இயக்கங்கள்" இங்கு அமைய வேண்டும் என்பதையும் அக்கறையோடு சுட்டிக் காட்டுகிறார் ஜெயகாந்தன்.


இந்துத்துவர்களின் அடி வயிற்றிலிருந்து அமிலத்தை உமிழ வைக்கும் சக்தி ஒரேயொரு பெயருக்குத் தான் இருக்கிறது அந்தப் பெயர் 'ஜவஹர்லால் நேரு'.

ஜெயகாந்தன் நேருவை தன் ஆசிரியர் நிலையில் வைத்துப் பேசுகிறார். "Glimpses of World History" மூலம் சரித்திரம் பயின்றதாகவும் அதன் மூலமே நம் பழங்காலச் சரித்திரத்தையும் நம் சரித்திரம் போன்றே மற்ற பண்டைய நாகரீகங்களின் சரித்திரம் இருந்ததையும் அறிந்ததாகச் சொல்கிறார். நேருவைப் பற்றி இந்துத்துவ அறிவிலிகள் சொல்லும் குற்றச்சாட்டு அவர் இந்திய பாரம்பர்ய பண்பாட்டை மதிக்கவில்லை என்பது. ஜெயகாந்தனின் பார்வையில் நேரு இந்திய வரலாற்றையும் பண்பாட்டு வேர்களையும் சம நோக்கோடு அங்கீகரித்தவர்.

"வேதங்களைப் பற்றியும் உபநிஷத்துகக்களைப் பற்றியும் மஹாபாரத இராமாயண இதிகாசங்களைப் பற்றியும் அவர் மிக உயர்வான மதிப்பீடுகளைப் பல நூல்களில் வழங்கியிருக்கிறார்".  
"மதங்களில் ஏற்பட்டிருக்கிற சீரழிவையும், மூட நம்பிக்கைகளையும் அவர் கடுமையாக வெறுத்தார். எனினும் அவற்றின் மூல மேன்மைகளை அவர் மறந்ததுமில்லை; மறுத்ததுமில்லை. கௌடில்யரின் அர்த்தசாஸ்திரத்தைப் பற்றி, அதில் மிளிர்ந்த ஜனநாயகப் பண்புகள் பற்றி, அர்த்த சாஸ்திரம் வல்யுறுத்துகிற வாழ்வியல் முறைகள் பற்றி அவர் மிகவும் உன்னதமான மதிப்பீடுகளைச் செய்திருக்கிறார்". 

மேற்சொன்ன இரு கருத்துகளுக்கும் ஜெயகாந்தன் அநேகமாக ஆதாரமாகக் கொண்டது 'இந்தியாவைக் கண்டடைதல்' நூலாக இருக்கும். ஏன் 'பல நூல்கள்' என்று ஜெயகாந்தன் குறிப்பிடுகிறார் என்று தெரியவில்லை.

நேருவின் "இதயம் மிகவும் விசாலமானது" என்று சொல்லி, "இவரது எண்ணங்களால், எழுத்துகளால் அசோகன் காலத்து இந்தியாவைப் போல் இந்தத் தேசம் இவர் (நேரு) காலத்தில் புத்தியிர் பெற்றது" என்று கட்டுரையைக் கொஞ்சம் அதீதமான விதந்தோதலுடன் முடிக்கிறார் ஜெயகாந்தன்.

கவனிக்க வேண்டியது ஜெயகாந்தன் நேருவிடம் வியந்த குணாதிசியங்கள். இவரா இன்று இந்துத்துவத்தை ஏற்பார். ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ் பற்றிய கட்டுரை தான் இத்தொகுப்பிலேயே மிக இண்டது. 30 பக்கங்கள். கிழித்துத் தொங்க விட்டிருக்கிறார்.


ஜெயகாந்தனின் பிள்ளைப் பருவத்தில் அவர் சுற்று வட்டாரத்தில் ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ் "காளமேகம் போல் தமிழ் இளைஞர்களைக் கவர்ந்து கொள்ள முயன்றது". அவர் பார்த்த ஆர்.எஸ்.ஏஸ்-இல் "முஸ்லிம் சிறுவர்களோ, தாழ்த்தப்பட்ட குலத்தில் பிறந்த சிறூவர்களோ, கிறிஸ்தவர்களோ ஒருவர் கூட இருக்கவில்லை".

இரண்டாம் உலக யுத்தம் முடிந்திருந்த காலத்தில், அப்போது ஜெயகாந்தனுக்கு 10-11 வயது, டாங்கிகளும், போர் விமானங்களும் அறிமுகமாகியிருந்த சூழலில் ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ்-இன் உடற்பயிற்சி முறைகளைப் பகடிச் செய்கிறார் ஜெயகாந்தன். "பாவம் இந்தப் பிராமணப் பிள்ளைகள் இந்தக் காலத்தில் வாளும் கேடயமும் தூக்கிக் கொண்டு, பண்டைக் காலக் காட்டுமிராண்டிகள் போல் ஆடுகிறார்களே" என்று நகைக்கிறார். அவர்களின் அரசியல் குறித்து அடுத்துக் காட்டமாகச் சொல்கிறார்.
" 'நான் ஒரு ஹிந்து' என்று ஒரு வகை, அருவறுக்கத்தக்க ஆவேசத்துடன் இவர்கள் கூறிக் கொண்டார்கள். அமைதியும் சாந்தமும் அகிம்சையும் வடிவமாகக் கொண்டு நம்மிடையே வாழ்ந்துக் கொண்டிருக்கிற மஹாத்மா காந்திஜியின் மூலம் இந்த 'ஹிந்து' என்ற வார்த்தைக்கு உயரிய பொருள் கொண்டு - நானும் ஒரு ஹிந்துவே என்று உணர்ந்தவன் நான். ஆயினும் இந்த ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ்காரர்கள் 'நான் ஹிந்து...ஹிந்து' என்று நெஞ்சில் அடித்துக் கொண்டு நின்ற போது - 'நான் ஹிந்து இல்லை...ஹிந்து இல்லை' என்று கத்திக்கொண்டு ஓட வேண்டும் போல் எனக்குத் தோன்றியது"
ஹிட்லர் தோற்கடிக்கப்பட்ட பின் "அதே ஸ்வஸ்திகா சின்னத்துடன் ஒரு காவி முக்கோணக் கொடியை ஏற்றி நெஞ்சில் கை வைத்துச் சல்யூட்" அடித்த ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ் நண்பர்களைப் பார்த்து "அறிவீனம்' என்று மட்டுமே எண்ணியதாகவும் "அது ஒரு புதிய ஆபத்தின் அறைகூவல்" என்று அப்போது பலருக்கும் புரியவில்லை என்கிறார்.

ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ் பற்றி மேலும் அறிந்தப் போது அவர்கள் "முற்றமுழுக்கப் பாசிசத்தையே ஹிந்து வர்ணம் பூசித் தரித்துக் கொண்டவர்கள்" என்று கண்டு கொண்டார் ஜெயகாந்தன். காந்தி கனவுக் கண்ட சமத்துவத்துக்கும் சகோதரத்துவத்துக்கும் ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ் இயக்கத்தினரின் கனவான "ஹிந்து ராஷ்டிரத்தில் இடம்" கிடையாது என்று தெளிவாக உணர்கிறார் ஜெயகாந்தன். அகண்ட ஹிந்துஸ்தானத்துக்குத் தாங்களே அதிபர்கள் என்று 'ஜெர்மன் நாஜிகள் போன்றே நம்பினார்கள்" என்கிறார். சவர்க்கரை ஹிட்லரோடு ஒப்பிட்டே பேசுகிறார் ஜெயகாந்தன்.

பாகிஸ்தானைப் போன்றே இந்தியாவிலும் ஹிந்து மதத்தின் பேரால், இங்கே வாளேந்தி மற்ற மதத்தினரைப் பூண்டோடு அழிக்கவும் சர்வாதிகார ஆட்சியை நிறுவவும் இவர்கள் அன்றே போர் சன்னத்தர்களாயினர்" என்று பின்னோக்கிப் பார்த்துச் சொல்கிறார்.

ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ் தடை நீக்கம் பெற்று பல கட்சிகளையும் ஊடுறுவி நிற்கிறது என்றும் காந்தியின் கொலைப் பழியிலிருந்து தங்களை விடுவிக்கும் பொருட்டுக் கோட்ஸே ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ் காரன் இல்லையென்றும் (கோட்ஸெ உண்மையில் ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ்-ஐ விட்டு வெளியேறியப் பிறகு தான் கொலைச் செய்தான்) "ஆயிரம் பொய்களைப் பேசி அழகாக முடிச்சவிழ்க்கப் பார்க்கிறார்கள்" என்று குற்றம் சாட்டுகிறார்.

ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ்-ஐ தமிழர்கள் எதிர்க்க வேண்டும் என்கிறார் ஜெயகாந்தன். "இவர்களை எதிர்த்தும், இவர்கள் மத நெடி வீசுகிற கருத்துக்களைக் காறித்துப்பியும், வெறும் இந்து வீரம் பேசி மதத்துவேஷம் வளர்க்கின்ற மாய் மாலத்தையும், ஆரியப் பெருமையையும் தமிழர்கள் ஆப்பாரைந்து தகர்திருக்கிறார்கள். இனியும் தகர்ப்பார்கள்".

ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ்-இன் மத வெறிக்கு எதிராகத் திராவிட இயக்கத்தின் நாத்திகம் வேருன்றியதைச் சுட்டிக் காட்டி ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ்-ஐ எதிர்க்க முக்கியமான உத்தியை ஜெயகாந்தன் சொல்லியிருக்கிறார்.

"நமது தொழிலாளி வீட்டுப் பிள்ளைகளும் விவேகாநந்தர், காந்திஜி, பாரதி, ராமலிங்க அடிகளார் போன்றோரின் சமரச சத்திய ஞானப் போதனைகளைப் பயிற்றுவிக்கிற இளைஞர் இயக்கங்களை ஊர்கள் தோறும் தோற்றுவிக்க வேண்டும்". இதைச் செய்யத் தமிழர்கள் தவறியதால் தான் இன்று நம்மிடையே பா.ஜ.க காலூன்றியதோடு இந்துத்துவர்களின் மாய்மாலப் பிரச்சாரங்களை எதிர் கொள்ள ஒரு அறிவியக்கம் தமிழர்களிடையே இல்லாமல் போனது.

"தமிழகமே உஷார்! இவர்களைச் சந்திக்கத் தயார் நிலையில் நில்!" என்கிறான் 'ஆல் அமர்ந்த ஆசிரியன்'

'நீங்கள் எந்தப் பக்கம்?'

அநேகமாக 1996-2001 காலக் கட்டத்துக்குள் பா.ஜ.க பங்குப் பெற்ற ஏதேனும் ஒரு தேர்தலின் போது எழுதப் பட்டதாக இருக்கும் 'நீங்கள் எந்தப் பக்கம்?' என்ற தலைப்பிட்டக் கட்டுரை.

மிகத் தெளிவாகச் சொல்கிறார் ஜெயகாந்தன், "ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ். சித்தாந்தத்தின் அரசியல் இயக்கமே பாரதிய ஜனதாவும் அதன் அணியைச் சேர்ந்த கட்சிகளுமாகும்". இந்த அணி ஒரு பக்கம்.

இன்னொரு பக்கம் "பல விஷயங்களில் மாறுபாடு கொண்ட கட்சிக் கொள்கைகள் உடையனவாயினும் காந்தியின் சித்தாந்தமான மத ஒற்றுமையை ஏற்றுக் கொண்டு அதற்காகப் பாடுபடும் கட்சிகள்". "இதில் எதைப் பெரும்பான்மை இந்திய வாக்காளர்கள் ஏற்றுக் கொள்ளப் போகிறார்கள்?"

"பாஸிசத்தை எதிர்த்து, உலக அறிஞர்களையும் எழுத்தாளர்களையும், ஒவ்வொரு பிரஜையையும் ஒன்று திரட்ட ஒரு காலத்தில் 'நீங்கள் எந்தப் பக்கம்?' என்று ஒரு கேள்வியை" மாக்ஸிம் கார்க்கி முன் வைத்தார். அதே கேள்வியை இந்திய வாக்காளன் முன் வைக்கிறார் ஜெயகாந்தன். இவரா சோ இராமசாமியோடு வைக்கத் தகுந்தவர்? இவரா இந்துத்துவர்? இவரா மோடிக்கு ஆதரவளிப்பார்?

'விசாலப் பார்வைக் கொள், தமிழா!'

அநேகமாக 1996-2001 திமுக ஆட்சியில் எழுதப்பட்ட கட்டுரை, 'விசாலப் பார்வைக் கொள், தமிழா!'. அகிலனுக்குப் பிறகு தமிழ் எழுத்தாளர்கள் யாருக்கும் ஞானபீடம் கொடுக்கப்பட்டதில்லை என்று வருத்தம் நிலவுவதைச் சிறு எள்ளலோடு குறிப்பிட்டு அதைப் பற்றிக் கவலைப் படாமல் தமிழர்கள் இந்திய மொழிகளை, சமஸ்கிருதம், உட்படத் தமிழ் நாட்டில் கௌரவிக்க வேண்டும் என்று வேண்டுகோள் விடுத்து, "இந்தியாவைப் பற்றியும் இந்திய மொழிகள் குறித்தும் நமது பார்வை விசாலமுறுதல் வேண்டும்" என்கிறார். "விசாலப் பார்வையால் இந்தியாவையே நாம் விழுங்குதல் வேண்டும்" என்று பாரதிதாசனை எதிரொலிப்பவரா இந்துத்துவத்துக்குக் குடைப் பிடிப்பார்? அறிவிலிகளே உங்கள் மனச் சுருக்கத்தையும் மன விகாரத்தையும் கொண்டு ஒரு சமூகத்தின் ஆசிரியனை அளக்க முற்படுகிறீர்கள்.

ரவி சுப்ரமணியனின் நாலாந்தர ஆவணப் படத்தில் ஆங்காங்கே வரும் நல்ல தருணங்களில் இரண்டு முக்கியமானவை. என் பார்வையில்.

கர்நாடக மாநிலத்தில் திருவள்ளுவர் சிலை வைக்கக் கிளம்பிய எதிர்ப்பும் அது சார்ந்து தமிழகத்தில் கர்நாடக மாநிலம் மீதும் இங்கு வாழும் கண்ணடர்கல் மீதும் எழுந்த அதிருப்தி தமிழர்களுக்கு அழகு சேர்ப்பதல்ல என்று சொல்லி தமிழர்கள் கர்நாடகாவுக்குப் பெருந்தன்மைக் கற்பிக்கும் பொருட்டுத் தமிழ் நாட்டில் கர்நாடக கவி ஒருவருக்குச் சிலை எழுப்ப வேண்டும் என்று சொல்லும் இடம் முக்கியம். இவரா இந்து மதம் மற்ற மதங்கள் தன்னோடு நல்லிணக்கமாக இருந்தால் மட்டுமே சகோதரத்துவத்தோடு இருக்க வேண்டும் என்று சொல்வார்?

யாரோ ஒரு வடக்கத்திய சங்கராச்சார்யார் ராமன் பற்றிச் சொன்ன கருத்தைப் பற்றிக் கேட்கும் போது வெகுண்டெழுகிறார், "யாரோ சங்கராச்சாரி ஏதோ சொன்னானாம் அதற்கு நான் பதில் சொல்ல வேண்டுமா? வெறுப்பைத் தேடிக் கொண்டு அலைகிறீர்கள்". இவரா இந்துத்துவர்?

கருத்துகளும் பார்வைகளும்:

ஜெயகாந்தனின் நாவல்களில் பல சுவாரசியமானதும் விவாதப் பொருளாவதும் அவரது முன்னுரைகளே. இத்தொகுப்பிலும் அவ்வாறே. இரண்டு மேற்கோள்கள் கீழே:
"எனது கருத்துக்களை கேட்கிறவர்களும், படிக்கிறவர்களும் அப்படியே ஏற்றுக் கொள்ள வேண்டும் என்று நான் எதிர்ப்பார்ப்பதுமில்லை. அதற்கு எதிரான மாறுதலான கருத்துகள் ஏற்கனவே நிலவி வருவதை நன்கு தேர்ந்தப் பிறகே நான் அவற்றை வெளிப்படுத்துகிறேன். அதன் மீது விவாதமும் ஆதரவும் மறுப்பும் ஏற்படுவது அவற்றின் இயல்பேயாகும் என்பதால் எனது கருத்துகளை மறுப்பவர்கள் மீதும், மாறுபாடு கொள்பவர்கள் மீதும் எனக்கு மாச்சர்யங்கள் ஏற்படுவதில்லை"
"இது எனது பார்வை. இது ஒன்று தான் பார்வை; இதுவே சரியான பார்வை என்பதோ, வேறு பார்வைகளை நான் மறுக்கிறேன் என்றோ இதற்குப் பொருள் அல்ல. எனது பார்வைக்கு என்று நான் எடுத்துக் கொள்ளுகிற விஷயங்களும் மனிதர்களும் எனது பார்வைக்குள் மட்டும் அடங்கி விடுகிறவை அல்ல. அவை மேலும் மேலும் அறியத் தகுந்தன. அவற்றின் வரம்பும் எல்லைகளும் விரிக்க விரிக்கப் பெருகும் இயல்புடையன."
ஜெயகாந்தன் என்கிற மானுடத்தை நேசித்த கலைஞனை மூடர்கள் மட்டுமே ஒரு வெறுப்பியக்கத்தோடு சம்பந்தப் படுத்த முடியும். அதைச் செய்த ஒருவர் மென்மையான எதிர் வினகைகளைக் கூடப் பொறுத்துக் கொள்ளவோ மெலும் விவாதிக்கவோ இயலாதவர். அவருக்கு ஜெயகாந்தனைப் புரியாமல் போனது விந்தையல்ல. ஒருவரை புரிந்துக் கொள்ளவும் ஏற்கவும் அவர் வாழ்வும் கருத்தியலும் நம் உள்ளத்தோடு ஓரளவுக்காவது சேர்ந்திசைக்க வேண்டும் (Resonate).

இப்புத்தகத்தைப் படிக்கும் போதும் சமீபத்தில் ஜெயகாந்தன் பற்றி இன்னொருவருடன் வாதிடும் போதும் என் மனத்தில் தோன்றிய வாசகம் ஜெயமோகன் ஜெயகாந்தனை 'ஆல் ஆமர்ந்த ஆசிரியன்' என்று தன் அஞ்சலி உரையில் குறிப்பிட்டது. கிறிஸ்தவம், இஸ்லாமிய அடிப்படை வாதம், மத மாற்றம், இந்து மதத்தில் தான் கொள்ளும் பெருமிதம் ஆகியன பற்றி மிக மிகக் காத்திரமாக இன்றும் எழுதுகிறவர் ஜெயமோகன். அவற்றில் பல கருத்துகளோடு நான் முரண்படுகிறவன் ஆனால் ஜெயமோகனும் ஜெயகாந்தனும் இணையும் புள்ளி, ஆர்.எஸ்.எஸ் பற்றிய விமர்சனத்தில் அல்ல, இந்து மதம் இந்துத்துவம் அல்ல என்பதிலும் இந்து மதத்தை இழிவு செய்வது இந்துத்துவம் என்பதிலும் தான்.

ஜெயகாந்தன் 'ஆல் ஆமர்ந்த ஆசிரியன்' ஆனால் அவரின் விழுதுகள் அவரைப் புரிந்து கொண்ட வாசகர்களேயன்றி அங்கொன்றும் இங்கொன்றும் படித்துத் தங்கள் சவுகரியத்துக்கு அவரை வளைப்பவர்களோ பிதுரார்ஜித உரிமைக் கொண்டாடுபவர்களோ அல்ல.

பின் குறிப்பு: 

ஜெயகாந்தன் படங்களுக்காக இணையத்தைத் தேடிய போது கிடைத்தது தான் அந்தக் கறுப்பு-வெள்ளை 'RSS' என்று எழுதி மண்டை ஓட்டோடு இருக்கும் படம். அது வெளியானது 'கல்பனா'. அப்படத்தில் 'ஜெயகாந்தனின் கல்பனா' என்பது தெரிகிறது. ஜெயகாந்தனின் படத்தின் கீழே மங்கலாகத் தெரியும் பெயர் 'ரா. கிருஷ்ணையா'. கிருஷ்ணையா ஜெயகாந்தனின் உற்ற நண்பரும் கல்பணாவின் பதிப்பாசிரியரும் ஆவார். அவர் ஒரு வகையில் எனக்கு உறவினரும் கூட. அவர் மகன் மணந்தது எங்கள் வீட்டுப் பெண்ணை. ஜெயகாந்தனின் 'உன்னைப் போல் ஒருவன்' படமாக்கலில் உதவி புரிந்தார் கிருஷ்ணையா என்று கேள்வி. ஜெயகாந்தனின் 'ஓர் இலக்கியவாதியின் கலையுலக அனுபவங்கள்" புத்தகத்தில் தோழர் கிருஷ்ணையா என்றே ஒரு அத்தியாயமுண்டு. கிருஷ்ணையா சோவியத் ரஷ்யாவில் கலாசார நிறுவனம் ஒன்றில் ரஷ்யாவிலும் பணியாற்றி இருக்கிறார். அகிலனின் 'நான் கண்ட ரஷ்யா'வில் கிருஷ்ணையா பற்றிக் குறிப்புண்டு.


1. 'எனது பார்வையில்' - ஜெயகாந்தன். கவிதா பதிப்பக வெளியீடு
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sare_Jahan_se_Accha
3. https://ta.wikipedia.org/wiki/இந்தியாவில்_சிறுபான்மையினர்_உரிமை
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jayakanthan#Awards_and_honours

Monday, April 15, 2019

India's Election: Selling BJP as Panacea and Parallel Universes

"This is the most important election of our lifetimes" is a constant refrain for any election and it has become laughable cliche except, sometimes, it is indeed true. Democracy is not a destination but a continuous journey and elections have consequences. India is certainly facing one of its most consequential elections in recent memory. Democracies are feeling the heat of populism and liberalism is in retreat. A crude form of tribalism is undermining notions of multiculturalism and majority communities are leading the charge fueled by a mythic notion of victimhood. The parallels, between the Trump phenomenon and an election in which Narendra Modi is the central figure, are troubling.

Modi's supporters and detractors, like that of Trump's, occupy parallel universes. Modi's supporters talk of free market, national pride, dispensing with the idea of secularism as useless hypocrisy, minority communities converting India to Islam or Christianity and fusing the Indian multitude into one single whole. Modi's detractors question what is being sold as economic growth, the muscular religious fundamentalism is frightening them, that men can be lynched on the basis of suspicions of selling beef shakes their belief in the society around them and they believe Modi is as corrupt as anyone. I, of course, belong in the latter camp.

Despite the antics of Trump and Modi facts do matter. Truth is neither relative not subjective. Here's why I consider the camps to be parallel universe. Monica Halan, writing for Livemint, says that the Congress party scheme of basic income will be a non-starter because India is "now not a predominantly poor country, but one with about 20% poor people. The rest of the 80% are left wondering what's in it for them".

One can scour the internet to find arguments about the poverty estimates of India and one could, as it happens, choose articles that confirm one's own view points. Economist Surjit Bhalla estimates that new economic data being compiled, published once in 5 years, will peg India's poverty at one third of its population. Ballah's estimation points to a downward trend that includes the growth that kicked in during the previous regime.  Even if we stick with Halan's estimate that 20% is 20% of more than a billion. Estimates say that "nearly 40% of India's children under 5 are short for their age". Between those two data points is a crucial human element that Halan nonchalantly glosses over. What is worse she says 80% of the remaining India would want to know who's paying for the 'dole'. Guess what, of the 80% a meager "0.23% pay 77% of India's taxes". "Only 81,344 individuals declared a gross total incomes of more than Rs 1 crore". India is a nation of tax cheats and for this class to smugly talk about the poor and undernourished is easy because this class lives in a parallel universe.

(Image source Forbes article. See Reference)

Halan's oped was titled, "Leaving 'maai-baap' behind, this is an India rising elections". The oped opened with an anecdote about an individual who was stopped by a traffic cop and who, instead of paying a bribe, insisted on getting a reciept for the fine due and if the cop refused that he'd email the Prime Minister's Office. The cop, Halan says, meekly fell in line and this, to the columnist, is evidence of a new India. Yes, it is a new India in her parallel universe.

In another universe a Washington Post article, amongst several others, spoke of how WhatsApp rumors fueled lynch mobs that killed individuals suspected of kidnapping children or robbing patients of body parts. "Cow Vigilante Violence" and "WhatsApp Lynchings" are wikipedia pages now. What sort of India does Ms Halan live in and what sort of India do readers who love her article live in?

Gurcharan Das, former CEO of P&G and then author of some books, recently published an article in 'Foreign Affairs', titled, "The Modi Mirage". Calling himself a liberal he speaks of an agonized choice in 2014 when he chose to support Modi risking India's "precious commitment to secularism and pluralism for the sake of prosperity, jobs, and fighting corruption". Now, if Das was truly a liberal he'd have no agony in making the choice and the choice would be that forsaking secularism for a few points of GDP is not worthwhile. These are liberals on a fair weather day.

Das excoriates Modi, on botching the implementation of GST, centralizing authority like he operated as Chief minister forgetting that he's Prime Minister, on being a 'pragmatic modernizer' and not a 'liberal reformer' and on causing a liquidity crunch through demonetization and affecting the lives of millions.

So why is Das disillusioned now? When he made the agonized choice Das depended on "India's democratic institutions" that he says are "strong enough" to prevail over Modi's "sectarian and authoritarian" style. Now suddenly Das is waking up to the fact that India's institutions, led by the IAS cadre, is not as strong.

Americans too made the same mistake in electing Donald Trump. While American institutions are certainly far stronger than Indian institutions Americans are realizing that the President does have lot of power and that unlike his predecessors Trump will not shy from tearing away gentlemanly behavior that restrained them from acting willy nilly. That's why Trump has a public feud with the Federal Reserve chairman and has the chutzpah to pardon potential witnesses against him in an inquiry.  People in high offices can test the limits of institutions. If we choose a candidate thinking institutions will retrain him or her then we are fools. Anyone requiring such restraints are unqualified to hold office in the first place.

Das adds, "some of the most robust government institutions have weakened: official data on jobs, for example, can no longer be trusted". If this is state of one of the key measurements of a large economy and if this is the comment by a former supporter can Modi's supporters have any legitimate argument to ask for his re-election? In a rational universe they'd not have any argument.

In the universe of Modi's supporters this administration has brought down or eliminated corruption, at least at high levels. Yet, only yesterday leading French newspaper Le Monde reports that France waived 143 Million Euro tax for Anil Ambani, who's company got the Rafale deal. If we make the argument that Modi is not personally corrupt then so was Manmohan Singh, for 10 years. BJP has the highest number of MPs with criminal cases and highest number of MPs with cases for crimes against women. How can this party not be corrupt? In a parallel universe it may be so.

The Attorney General, K.K. Venugopal, informed India's Supreme Court that the Indian voter has no need to know about the source of funding for parties. The Modi led government is liberalizing rules to raise money from sources, including foreign sources. Every party played along and the bill passed the Lok Sabha without a debate. This would've caused a furor in any civilized democracy. The BJP is India's richest party today. Yet, we are told this is a government where corruption trends downward.

BJP richest political party with Rs 10.03 billion income in FY17: ADR

(Source https://www.business-standard.com/article/politics/bjp-richest-political-party-with-rs-10-03-billion-income-in-fy17-adr-118041001008_1.html )

If all the above are not reasons enough to boot Modi's government out Das, who expected the leopard to change its spots, bemoans that "India's prized social cohesion is under threat, and religious minorities feel insecure". That should qualify as a gross understatement.

Here's a cartoon that is doing the rounds on Hindtutva Facebook pages.

Modi certainly did not invent casteism or Islamophobia or hatred of Christians or other minorities. But what Modi certainly made it acceptable is the mainstreaming of such filth. People who share this do so publicly and even those who disagree with this filth feel its perfectly ok to be friends, whatever that may mean in the Facebook world, with such bigots. Dishing out unprintable names about castes and members of various communities used to be done in closed circles and now it is mainstream. This is why Modi gets the level of support that Vajpayee never got. Vajpayee, for all his bigotry, had his limits whereas Modi has none.

Modi's election campaigns have degenerated into open religion baiting and dispensed with dog whistles. Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad, a constituency where the three religions and tribals form good proportion, becomes a reason to castigate him as contesting from a Muslim constituency. Wayanad is NOT a Muslim constituency. Rumors were first circulated that Pakistan flags accompanied Rahul Gandhi's visit. They were the flags of Muslim League, an alliance partner of Congress. Then another rumor started that Muslim League supporters were told not to wave their party flag for being mistaken for Pakistan flag. That was debunked too with visual evidence.

While minorities are hunted and lynched in one universe in another universe stories abound about conversions for money. India, a popular meme joked, has been under Islamic rule for 500+ years and under Christian rule for 300 years and yet has remained Hindu by a vast majority and therefore what's the big deal now? Nope there's no big deal now except that Modi has happened. Not all the money of Vatican or Middle East can fund converting India to Christianity or Islam. Yesterday BJP's chief in the state of Kerala has said that one has to only remove the dress of a man to know if he's a Muslim.

Much of what we see is really not new. Social media brings these to us faster and with visceral immediacy. Social media is also becoming a threat to Indian democracy (and yes I'll be sharing this blog on Facebook). India, analyst Tarun Pathak told Wall Street Journal, "is now the world's cheapest country to spread fake news". Another analyst estimates that "some 13.7 billion WhatsApp messages are sent every day in India". All parties indulge in this but BJP probably is the leader. Their echo chambers ricochet with not just fake news but hate speech. Not all universes are alike.

Modi's supporters spend their waking moments jeering at Rahul Gandhi as 'Pappu' and forwarding memes about Rahul's intelligence or lack thereof. In another universe Modi made a fool of himself, on recorded video, trying to spell the word 'Strength' and explaining the mathematical formula (a+b)2.

Which universe will triumph when the votes are counted?

Only W.B. Yeats can do justice to the moment.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.


1. https://www.livemint.com/elections/opinion/opinion-leaving-maai-baap-behind-this-is-an-india-rising-elections/amp-1554900859061.html
2. http://www.forbesindia.com/article/india-rich-list-2018/indias-tryst-with-taxes/51833/1
3. Modi Mirage https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/india/2019-04-11/modi-mirage
4. https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/16/asia/india-whatsapp-lynching-intl/index.html 
5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/as-mob-lynchings-fueled-by-whatsapp-sweep-india-authorities-struggle-to-combat-fake-news/2018/07/02/683a1578-7bba-11e8-ac4e-421ef7165923_story.html?utm_term=.a0e3878fa6ad
6. https://www.wsj.com/articles/fake-news-is-rampant-on-whatsapp-as-indian-elections-loom-11554055428
7. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/voters-don-t-have-right-know-source-political-party-funds-ag-venugopal-sc-99867
8. https://www.indiatoday.in/crime/story/bjp-has-highest-number-of-mps-and-mlas-with-cases-of-crimes-against-women-says-study-1215840-2018-04-19
9. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/lok-sabha-passes-bill-to-exempt-political-parties-from-scrutiny-on-foreign-funds-without-debate/article23285764.ece
10. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/07/10/india-is-no-longer-home-to-the-largest-number-of-poor-people-in-the-world-nigeria-is/?utm_term=.ce61edc8498e
11. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/india-is-middle-income-now-raise-the-poverty-line-5239269/
12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cow_vigilante_violence_in_India_since_2014

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Dalit Film and Cultural Festival: Voices of Oppressed. And some disappointments. Dalit Hatred of Gandhi

I've lived in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu for nearly 20 years till 1998, before leaving for USA and during my last visit in August 2015 posters announcing an upcoming commemoration of Immanuel Sekaran who was brutally murdered in one of the worst caste riots in Tamil Nadu in 1957. This was new.  The town of Keezhvenmani saw the worst massacre of Dalits in 1968 when 28 women and 16 children were burned alive. It took decades and the freedom of internet to get a decent documentary, 'Ramiah's hut', published. While both of those atrocities were well known they remained as folk lore and anecdotes with no possibility of wider attention. In this backdrop the recent political assertion of Dalits and the opening up of spaces where Dalit topics find expression is a welcome and long overdue change. One such happening was the Dalit International Film Festival that was held in Columbia University in February.

Dalit Film and Cultural Festival (DALIFF), held on Feb 23rd and Feb 24th, in New York City at Ambedkar's alma mater Columbia University was organized by US Ambedkarites. The festival featured the following on Feb 23rd when I attended: Pariyerum Perumal, directed by Mari Selvaraj; Kaala, directed by Pa. Ranjith, Paavsacha Nibandhan, a short film by Nagraj Manjule. The event featured panel discussion led by Suraj Yengde with Manjule, Ranjith and Niharikha Singh on the panel.

'Pariyerum Perumal' is a gritty telling of the bloody saga of honor killings in a village where Dalits and OBC's (Other Backward Classes) live cheek by jowl. 'Kaala', starring Rajinikanth and Nana Patekar, is known better for loading the movie with Dalit symbolisms, unseen in a Tamil movie until then, than for its cinematic narrative.

Pa. Ranjith (Image Courtesy 62475313.jpg)
Pa. Ranjith redefined caste portrayals in Tamil movies and particularly with portraying Dalit centric themes. Ranjith's political activism has colored both his supporters who swear by him and his detractors who swear at him. While neighboring Kerala is known for artsy movies Tamil Nadu's filmdom has only thrown up mediocrities like K. Balachander and overrated filmmakers like Balu Mahendra. K. Balachander, awarded India's highest honor for a film maker, the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, for a long time thought that capturing a plastic maudlin stage drama on celluloid is all there is to cinema. The problem with criticizing Ranjith's film making talent is that there is quite a crowd who do it out of animosity towards his caste and most importantly his politics. Many who disliked Kaala did so out of being peeved at his portrayal of a much loved and revered deity of Hinduism and Hinduism itself.

It is not uncommon to find Ambedkar statues in Tamil Nadu and across India in an iron cage to prevent upper caste rowdies from vandalizing it. Madurai and its neighboring areas burst into a caste conflagration just because the then government decided to name a transport corporation after a lower caste chieftain. Journalist Vaasanthi recounted how a boy of 10 years old told her that he'd not step foot in a bus named after a lower caste person. Even now as alliances are being stitched to face oncoming polls one of the major parties is stepping gingerly around the fact that a key partner is a Dalit party. Having a Dalit party in the alliance has the potential to alienate other voters particularly from the OBCs. This is not just an open secret but a openly talked factor in analyzing who'd romp home and why. In this context one has to appreciate the commercial difficulties and daredevilry in making a movie that features Ambedkar portraits liberally in scenes. Ranjith also featured figurines of Buddha in the scenes while mercilessly skewering Hinduism. All of that colored audience reactions. Whether Ranjith's movies are artsy or not is beside the point but one has to concede that he or his movies cannot be ignored.

Marathi filmmaker Nagraj Manjule shot to prominence when his debut short film Pistulya won the National Award for Best First Non-Feature Film of a Director (Sigh, really there's a category like that?) in 2010. Following that was his first feature film 'Fandry' which bagged the 'Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director. 'Sairat', released in 2016, was selected for Berlin International Film Festival. With such acclaim Manjule's 'Pavsacha Nibandh', 2018, a short film that drew from the circumstances of his own life was an easy choice for the festival.

Pavsacha Nibandh narrates the story of a boy in an impoverished village studying in a government run school. One day the class is assigned to write an essay on rain and it so happens that heavens pour forth in torrential rain that day over the village. The boy and his sister try to get home but their father who has the keys is missing and later found in drunken stupor on a roadside. Then mother and children lift him up and drag him home. Once home the boy still has no time to write the essay and instead has some chores and next day the teacher administers corporal punishment to the erring boy for not completing the home work while his classmates did. There the movie ends. I wondered what was the movie's message on caste because the boy was studying a government run school where his classmates are equally impoverished and if anything it is the alcoholism of the boy's father that makes his already difficult life become unbearable.

Nagraj Manjule (Image Courtesy _dada07d6-4966-11e8-b38d-ae9d3b5e5930.jpg
The audience probably had a heavy sprinkling of Tamils because of Ranjith and he was accorded a rousing reception when he took to the stage at the end of the screening of Pariyerum Perumal, a movie he produced. Suraj Yengde moderated a panel discussion. The panel honored P.K. Rosy, India's first Dalit actress.

Jayan Cherian, director of acclaimed movie ' Papilio Buddha', about Dalits of Western Ghats being displaced by the government, was critical of the caste environment of Kerala. Both Yengde and Cherian sought to completely discredit the notion that Kerala, being dominated by Left Wing politics and ruled by Communist party, was progressive and egalitarian. Cherian chided the casteism that's entrenched amongst Kerala's Christians. Y engde made a snide remark about Kerala 'supposedly' electing the World's first communist movement. That was uncalled for. Cherian and Yengde, echoing the resurgent Dalit movements today, spoke of Dalits embracing Buddhism. While Buddhism eschewed caste the lands where Buddhism reigns today are soaked in blood. I find this demonizing of Hinduism while ignoring the history of Buddhism as unfair to how religion, any religion, operates as an organization.

Nagraj Manjule spoke of the importance of Dalit voices adding a different perspective. While having a diverse demographics is supposed to bring diverse intellectual perspectives in any group the suggestion that reading Ramayan from Raavan's perspective will make Rama look like a villain is complete utter nonsense. Ram and Raavan are not interchangeable heroes like Hector and Achilles. It is this sort of chicanery that gets under the skin of even apolitical or progressive Hindus. Completely unnecessary provocation and it doesn't do justice to the idea of diversity.

Ranjith faced a softball query as to why the heroines in his movies were fair skinned. Ranjith defended the choices saying it is a stereotype to expect Dalit women to be dark skinned and that one of his own relatives was a fair skinned woman and was named 'Pappathiamma' (the word is a slang for a Brahmin woman). He also said that Easwari Rao, one of the lead women characters in Kaala, is of dark complexion and delivered a powerful performance. The answer is actually less than an answer. Why should a Dalit woman be named 'Pappathy'? Of course there's a stereotype that only a Brahmin lady can be fair skinned and that a Dalit being fair is exceptional and hence the name. Of course, this is my reasoning. As for Easwari Rao it appears Ranjith first approached Kasturi Shankar, a fair skinned actress and a Brahmin for the role. That Easwari gave a powerful performance and became spoken about is due credit to her but it is North Indian and very wheatish looking Huma Qureshi who plays the key role.

Asked about receiving financing for his ventures Ranjith said that he did face difficulties. It is possible his difficulties especially for his first few films were both because he was a newbie and due to the caste themes he wanted to portray.

Ranjith said he grew up reading novels and watching movies that depicted Dalits as artless and that irked him. His use of a hip-hop group in Kaala was highlighted by a fellow panelist. Hip-hop has achieved, in the US, a status of protest songs and that too was mentioned. This then begs the question of Ranjith's own portrayal of Dalits in his movies. A question was asked why his lead characters in Kabali and Kaala were negative portrayals, as dons. Ranjith demurred that in Kaala the character is not that of a don but a local powerful man protecting the interest of his people. This is hogwash. I too have wondered about the portrayal of Dalits in his movies. Even in the cultural center that he recently helped create only Parai, traditionally associated with Dalits, was featured and there was no space for, say, a Nadhaswaram, an instrument equally associated with other oppressed castes. And why not have an event featuring a Dalit carnatic musician?

Niharikha Singh, winner of some beauty contest and a Dalit, was the shocker for how much she was a misfit in the panel. Yengde framed a lengthy question for her literally putting words into her mouth by asking her supposed struggles as a woman in the beauty business and as Dalit woman at that. What a disappointment it must have been for him to hear her say that when she started out she did not speak of any identity and that she was just in it for her own survival. She also added, quite stupidly, "I look rich but I am not rich".

Suraj Yengde was the animating spirit of the festival exuding youthful cheer, the occasional irreverent  whistle and his unique hair style.

Suraj Yengde (Image Courtesy dscf3117eugenie_baccot_photography_c_2018.jpg)
India has, for a long time, had a wealth of literature portraying Dalit lives and concerns and an occasional movie here and there has done justice, perhaps, to such topics. It is a credit to Cherian, Ranjith, Selavaraj and Manjule that their movies are now mainstream and are presenting Dalit lives in an unvarnished manner. It is a testament to the Dalit movements that there is interest in Ambedkar's writings now beyond just passing familiarity of him as "their icon". The festival had displays of many books about and by Ambedkar. Sadly, they were only for display. The books included Government of India produced books.

So, what were my disappointments?

An earlier mini-session had my head spinning hearing comments like "can I speak in English? Will that be Brahminical?" and "oh sorry I started off in Hindi instead of Marathi, that was Brahminical". What nonsense is this?

First, Suraj Yengde. Yengde, Harvard's website says, is an "inaugural post doctoral fellow at the Initiative for Institutional anti-racism" as part of the Shoresenstein center. He is also referred to as "academic activist". Maybe Harvard doesn't realize that that's an oxymoron. Academics loose academic objectivity when they become activists and become less than academic. They become polemicists. Classic examples are Paul Krugman, a shill for the Democratic party now, and Cornel West, who has crossed from even polemics to being sheer agitprop. At least they have a body of work when they used to be just academics. Yengde is yet to produce any seminal work of note. I did wonder if he's helping Dalits or helping himself or being symbiotic in organizing festivals like these in Columbia and Harvard universities.

An interview by Ambedkar in 1955, is cited by Yengde as one in which he "debunks", Gandhi's, "faux admonition of hierarchy" and that "Gandhi wrote about egalitarianism in English while promoting the suppression of oppressed caste groups in Gujarati". This was Ambedkar at his venomous best, if one were to discount what he wrote when Gandhi was assassinated. Even Churchill was kinder to Gandhi. What Ambedkar was plainly false and venomous. He did not cite any evidence. Only social media warriors cite such quotes and smugly ask "so can you prove it is not so". When an academician cites such slip shod claims in an oped he's not just being an activist but a mischievous propagandist.

Gandhi did not lack critics in his own day. Many were bilingual and if he was a Janus faced hypocrite he'd have been mercilessly called out. The charge about Gandhi's support for Varnshrama is never, ever made, by citing him fully. But then Dalits, very unfortunately, have decided that to propagate Ambedkar they'd have to throw the kitchen sink at Gandhi.

I found Yengde's essay on Ambedkar's foreign policy, in a book he co-edited with Anand Teltumbde, to be abjectly shoddy work that was more interested in promoting conspiracy theories about Brahminical cabal controlling India's foreign policy than in outlining any coherent foreign policy articulated by Ambedkar, assuming there was one. Ambedkar, Yengde says, chided India's "colossal expenditure on building defense capabilities" as being at the behest of the "elite Brahminical class". This is laughably stupid. Gandhi was capable of stupidities and Ambedkar was equally capable. Only, in the case of Ambedkar, it is coupled with venomous hatred. Of Malcolm X an American documentary said, 'the hate that hate begets'.

Though I did not get to watch 'Papilio Buddha' at the Festival I watched it in Youtube.  The movie takes a genuine issue of land possession and freights it with unremitting hatred of Gandhi. Churn was being intellectually dishonest in using Joseph Lelyveld's book to allege Gandhi had homosexual relationships with Kallenbach. A character crudely says "I love Gandhi because...he can fuck a man too". Then towards the end Gandhi's effigy garlanded with slippers is burned. Gandhi cap wearing politicians come chanting and unleash a police lathe charge and in the melee a statue of Buddha is kicked around. Maybe Cherian can get the opinion of Rohingyas about Buddhists. Lelyveld titled his biography of Gandhi, "Great Soul" and delves in great depth into Gandhi's battles against untouchability. If Cherian had, in the movie, taken an unflinching look at casteism in Kerala churches he may have faced greater opposition.

Like Cherian, Ranjith is equally ignorant of history and has only consumed Ambedkar's propaganda. A chance 10-15 minute chat with Ranjith, with three others around, was interesting. Ranjith is truly animated about the topic of land owning privileges and how Dalits have defrauded of their privileges. That was the central theme of Kaala, too.

While the word 'Brahminical' is freely bandied on stage here, away from the podium, Ranjith was narrating about Dalit problems with OBCs in village after village. He bemoaned how one OBC caste controls the entire mom and pop retail shops in many cities. He listed several instances for several minutes about many castes that oppress Dalits. Hearing all that I interjected and asked him, "there is one caste you've not mentioned in this ten minutes, the Brahmins". My point was that the real problem for Dalits, in Tamil Nadu, is with OBCs and not with Brahmins. Then the bystanders, completely sympathetic to anything Ranjith would say and having been fed on Tamil Nadu's staple diet of anti-brahmanism, sparred with me.

Ranjith and the bystanders argued that they are only scolding 'Brahminism'. This is a shopworn lame excuse that the Dravidian party hate merchants use to slither their way out of them being spineless to criticize other castes, notably the Thevar or Vanniyar communities with which Dalits have the most problems in Tamil Nadu today. It is easy to scold Gandhi and Rajaji from a stage than to even murmur a word against Muthuramalinga Thevar or Dr. S. Ramadoss.

The group and Ranjith insisted that 'Brahminism' is only a label for a casteist attitude and that it applies to anyone who exhibits those. Let's not fool ourselves. The word 'Brahminism' is immediately associated with Brahmins as a community and no one, mentally, associates it, readily, with other communities like a community neutral word like "communism' or 'capitalism'. This intellectual dishonesty has to stop. Ranjith is either making an honest mistake or he's being mischievous.

Then I asked about Gandhi. Immediately the group let out a sarcastic chuckle to mean "are you even serious". Ranjith mentioned that Gandhi was unsympathetic to Dalits who were striking work at the Binny Mills. This is unmitigated nonsense. First of all, Dalits were not striking work but were 'strike breakers', meaning, they broke ranks with the striking workmen and went to work. This created a tension along the fault lines of caste. The strikers were trying to intimidate Dalits to join them. This is not very different from how african-american workers once excluded from unions were employer friendly. In that tense situation Gandhi was touring Tamil Nadu extensively. Here's Gandhi addressing a labor meeting on Sep 16th 1921:
I would ask you not even to go to them to wean them from their service. Believe me when they find that you exercise no pressure against them, they will of their own free choice and accord come to you. Nor will you consider that they are low caste and you are high caste.
It was the time of Khilafat agitation and prior to this the relationship between Dalits and Muslims had been poisoned leading to the Puliyanthope riots that resulted in loss of life. D. Veeraraghavan's well documented, "The Making of the Madras working class' also stresses how Gandhi sought to protect the Dalits from the strikers.

Remembering the short film 'Paavsacha Nibandhan' I asked whether Rajaji's championing of prohibition would be a good idea. Now, I was being mischievous knowing what emotions the name Rajaji would evoke. Immediately the phrase "ah. hereditary education guy" ( குலக் கல்வி) was pronounced. Of course that too was the result of a Goebbelsian propaganda by the Dravidian parties. Was Rajaji a devout Brahmin? That he was. But was he a casteist? Not at all. Absolutely no. Rajaji was deeply involved with the labor unions during the Binny strike. It was Rajaji who set animation the temple entry bills, starting of a bit cautiously, thus antagonizing Dalit leader M.C. Rajah, and then widening the scope during his first Chief Ministership of Madras Presidency.

Gandhi and Rajaji, any honest biographer or student of history would readily concede had their biases and blind spots. So does Ambedkar. Ranjith rounded off the discussion by asking me to read Ambedkar's "what have congress and Gandhi done for the untouchables". I've read it. Does it have justifiable criticisms, yes. Is it unsympathetic to what maybe good intentions that were not carried out well? Yes. Does it lob unfair accusations at Gandhi and Congress? That too, yes.

Pa. Ranjith bows to the political pressure in Tamil Nadu to acknowledge the patron saint E.V. Ramaswamy. Whether it is in the imagery of his cultural center or at this festival which Gandhi is freely lampooned E.V.R is revered. If Dalit intellectuals were honest they'd not do this. Immanuel Sekaran was murdered during the caste conflagration at Muthukulathur. Anyone who studies, honestly,  E.V.R's conduct during those riots and studies Gandhi's efforts at Naokhali and Calcutta will know the difference between a rabble rouser and a Mahatma.

As Muthukulathur teetered on the edge of bloody riots E.V.R pompously declared, "why would I send my black shirt army to Muthukulathur? Do I want them to die? Let these caste fight amongst themselves". Gandhi threw himself into the caldron of hatred at Calcutta and only two possible outcomes were acceptable to him, either peace returns to the city or he dies in the attempt to bring peace. Ranjiths, Yengdes and Cherians will never understand Gandhi. After the carnage at Keezhvenmani E.V.R released a stinging statement scolding, wait, hold on, not the real perpetrators, the Naidus, but Brahmins. This is who E.V.R really was.

Dalits, with justification, criticize Gandhi for prioritizing temple entry over access to education. Gandhi probably thought that if temple entry happens then the rest will be relatively easy. That aside there's merit in that criticism. But what was E.V.R's contribution? This was a man who never understood education or its value. Citing rising unemployment E.V.R nonchalantly tells an interviewer that he'd rather close down the colleges. Does this man have any moral right to scold C.Rajagopalachari?

The common entrance exam for Medical colleges, NEET, caused a furor in Tamil Nadu because of the death of Anita, a Dalit girl, who had scored good marks in the +2 exam but did not score enough in NEET exam. She committed suicide. Ranjith and many Dalits were angry at the test and government for implementing it. The exam was characterized as a conspiracy against Dalits. Of course there's absolutely no merit in that argument since other Dalits in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere had qualified. What no one thought of questioning was the pathetic state of education in Tamil Nadu (see my blog on NEET https://contrarianworld.blogspot.com/2017/10/neet-exposes-tamil-nadus-shoddy.html ). Tamil Nadu leads the nation in education loans because the successive state governments, in E.V.R land, had completely abandoned educational sector to rapacious profiteers in private sector. It is easy to make a movie like 'Pavsacha Nibandh' but it requires honest discussion of issues and more ground level efforts to address real issues.

Can India do better for Dalits? Of course it can. Do Dalits experience unique oppressions? Yes they do. But is India a desolate Nazi state of oppression? Not at all. It is dishonesty to characterize India that way. That Cherian can make a movie mocking Gandhi as homosexual and portray an effigy of Gandhi being burned and have India's censor permit it, shows that Dalits have their spaces and freedoms too. Likewise for Ranjith's Kaala that demonizes a religion and a much revered God and yet becomes a block buster. Yengde gushed that Manjule only has to make a movie or a short film and the awards come calling.

It is time hateful rhetoric is eschewed. If one does not know how to criticize without being hateful then it is tragic. Criticize Brahmins all you want when it is they who are oppressing or instituting exclusionary practices, as in Carnatic music but to simply weasel out of criticizing other communities by using a convenient label, 'Brahminical', is dishonesty that'll only serves to protect the true oppressors. The words 'Brahminism' and 'Brahminical' have a place in academic discourse but it should used with care and academic precision. That 'Brahminical patriarchy' placard is, again, laughably stupid. Patriarchy exists in every culture and society. Brahmins did not invent it. Don't credit them with everything and bemoan later that they think they invented the world.

A much needed attention to Dalit issues and forums to express their issues are now being available. Let there be no whitewashing. Be unsparing about the iniquities and the oppressions but spare a thought for real issues and real solutions.


1. Panel Discussion Recording https://youtu.be/MAyOBcE1rKU
2. Immanuel Sekaran https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuvel_Devendrar
3. Keezhvenmani https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilvenmani_massacre
4. Suraj Yengde's Harvard profile https://scholar.harvard.edu/surajyengde/about
5. Suraj Yengde's column ' Perils of Gandhiplomacy' https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/perils-of-gandhiplomacy-mahatma-gandhi-statue-india-independence-3058820/
6. Pa. Ranjith's Anti-Brahminism (Tamil blog) https://contrarianworld.blogspot.com/2017/10/blog-post.html
7. My blog on why i reject E.V.R (Tamil blog) https://contrarianworld.blogspot.com/2017/11/blog-post.html
8. My blog on E.V.R (Tamil blog) https://contrarianworld.blogspot.com/2017/09/blog-post.html
9. Papilio Buddha movie (with English sub-titles) https://youtu.be/EHm1v0vrOWU
10. Pistulya https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovimYnrk07o
11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagraj_Manjule
12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._K._Rosy
13. Pa. Ranjith https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pa._Ranjith
14. http://icls.columbia.edu/events/dalit-film-and-cultural-festival-daliff/
15. Pavsacha NIbandh https://youtu.be/SV9NPeAybN0

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

2019 கும்ப மேளா: ஒரு குறிப்பு

 ஜெயமோகனின் கும்ப மேளா பற்றிய தொடரில் ஒரு கட்டுரையைப் படிக்க நேர்ந்தது. சுண்டியிழுக்கும் முதல் பத்தியே காரணம். இந்திய 'அறிவார்ந்த' ஊடகங்கள் எல்லாம் கும்ப மேளா பற்றி எதிர்மறையாகவே பிரச்சாரம் செய்கின்ற என்ற வாசகரின் உளக்குமுறுலோடு ஆரம்பமாயிற்று.

இந்தியாவில் ஜனத்திரள் கூடும் எந்த இடம் பற்றியும், அரசியல் மாநாடோ மதம் சம்பந்தபட்டதோ, யாருக்கும் இருக்கும் அச்சம் சுகாதாரமின்மை மற்றும் அசம்பாவிதம் ஏதும் நிகழ்ந்துவிடுமோ என்கிற அச்சமும் யதார்த்தமானதே. இதற்கு உடனே மேற்கத்திய ஊடகங்கள், மிஷனரி வரலாறு, காலணியாதிக்கம் என்றெல்லாம் யாரும் உணர்ச்சி வசப்பட வேண்டாம். மகத்தில் பிறந்த மகராசி மகாமக குளத்தில் குளிக்கப் போய் எத்தனை பேர் இறந்தார்கள் என்பது இணையத்தைத் தட்டினால் தெரியும். தஞ்சை பெரிய கோவில் சதயத் திருவிழாவில் ஜன நெரிசலில் மாண்டவர்கள் அநேகம்.

1954 மகா கும்ப மேளாவில் நடந்த ஜன நெரிசலில் மாண்டவர்கள் 800. அதற்கு முக்கியக் காரணம் நாகர்களின் முரட்டுத் தனம் தான் என்று அரசாங்க அறிக்கையே சொன்னது. ஒரு அனுமார் கோயில் அருகே அகாராக்களின் ஊர்வலத்தைப் பார்க்க பாதையின் இரு மருங்கிலும் பல்லோர் கூடியிருக்க ஏற்பட்ட நெரிசலில் கூட்டம் ஊர்வலப் பாதைக்குள் சிதற நாகர்கள் அவர்களை இரும்பு சிம்டாக்கள் கொண்டு தாக்க கடைசில் 800 பேர் மரணம். கமலகாண்ட வர்மா சமர்பித்த அறிக்கையில் காட்டமாக எழுதினார், "சோர்ந்தப் போய் நாகர்களின் ஊர்வலப் பாதையில் குறிக்கிட்ட யாத்திரீகனை இரும்பு ஆயுதம் கொண்டு தாக்குவது ஒரு சாது செய்யக் கூடியதா?...இன்றைய சாதுக்களுக்கு என் கோரிக்கை இது தான், உங்கள் வீடுகளை முதலில் ஒழுங்கு படுத்துங்கள், உங்கள் மேன்மைக்குத் திரும்புங்கள். இன்றிருக்கும் நிலை நீடித்தால் 'சாது' என்கிற வார்த்தையின் உண்மையான முக்கியத்துவம் மறைந்து அச்சொல் பிச்சைக்காரன் என்பதற்கு நிகரானதாகிவிடும்." ஜவகர்லால் நேரு அந்தக் கும்ப மேளாவில் பங்கேற்றார். ஆனால் அவர் புனித நீராடுவதாக உலவும் புகைப்படம் அப்போது எடுத்தது அல்லவாம். 

கும்ப மேளாவில் கலவரங்களுக்கு நீண்ட வரலாறு உண்டு. அது நாகர்களின் இரத்தம் தோய்ந்த வரலாறோடு பிணைந்தது. 1850 கும்ப மேளாவில் சைவ வைணவ ஆயுதம் தாங்கிய சாதுக்களிடையே மோதலை தவிர்க்க ஆங்கிலேய அரசு ஆயுதம் தாங்கிய படையைக் காவலுக்கு வைத்ததோடு இரு பிரிவினரும் குளிப்பதற்குத் தனித் தனிப் படிதுறைகளையும் அவ்விரு படித்துறைகளுக்கு நடுவே பிராமணர்களுக்கு இடமும் ஒதுக்கி மிகப் பெரிய முஸ்தீபுகளோடு தான் நடைப் பெற்றது. 20-ஆம் நூற்றாண்டில் நாகர்களை மையப்படுத்தியே கும்ப மேளா உருப்பெற்றது. அதனாலேயே மேளா என்றாலே நிர்வாண சாதுக்கள், அவர்களின் வித்தியாசமான பழக்க வழக்கங்கள் முன்னிலைப்படுத்துவது என்று பொதுச் சித்திரம் விளைந்தது. மேற்சொன்னத் தகவல்கள் வில்லியம் பின்ச் எழுதிய "Warrior Ascetics and Indian Empires" நூலில் இருந்து. 

2013 கும்ப மேளாவில் அலகாபாத் ரயில் நிலையத்தில் ஏற்பட்ட நெரிசலில் 40 பேர் பலி. இவ்வருடம் பிப்ரவரி 5-ஆம் தேதி நெரிசலில் காயமுற்றவர்கள் ஒரு டஜனுக்கும் மேல் என்கிறது இந்துஸ்தான் டைம்ஸ். இவ்வருடம் ஜனவரி 14 அன்று ஒரு சிறிய தீவிபத்தும் ஏற்பட்டிருக்கிறது. 10 கோடி பேருக்கு மேல் கூடும் ஒரு விழாவில் இது ஒன்றுமில்லாத விஷயம் தான் ஆனால் இச்சம்பவங்கள் பெரும் உயிர் சேதமாக உருவெடுக்காதது அதிர்ஷ்டம் மற்றும் அரசாங்கத்தின் சீரிய ஏற்பாடுகள் காரணம். 

கும்ப மேளா என்பது இந்துப் பண்டிகை. அப்படிச் சொன்னால் ஜெயமோகன் கோபித்துக் கொள்ள மாட்டார் என்றே நினைக்கிறேன். ஆயிரம் வருடத்துக்கு மேலாக இருக்கும் இஸ்லாமியரின் பண்டிகையை இஸ்லாமியப் பண்டிகை என்று தானே குறிப்பிடுகிறோம். எந்த அரசாங்கமும் பொது மக்கள் கூடும் எந்த விழாவுக்கும் தக்க ஏற்பாடுகள் செய்ய வேண்டும். கும்ப மேளாவுக்கான செலவு ரூபாய் 4,300 கோடி. இது ஒரு மதத்தின் ஒரு விழாவுக்கான செலவு அதுவும் எல்லா இந்துக்களும் பங்கேற்காதப் பண்டிகைக்கு. ஹஜ் பயணத்துக்குச் செலவு செய்வதை வயிற்றெரிச்சலோடு பார்த்தவர்களுக்காக இதை அழுத்திச் சொல்கிறேன். உங்களுக்கான புனிதத் தலங்கள் இந்தியாவில் இருக்கின்றன மற்றவர்களுக்கு வேறு இடங்களில் அதற்கு அரசாங்கம் உதவியளித்தது போல் அளித்தது ஆனால் உண்மையில் அது அரசாங்க விமான நிறுவனத்துக்குத் தான் உதவியாக முடிந்தது. ஹஜ் மாணியம் ஏர் இந்தியாவுக்குத் தான் அதிகம் உதவியது. அதுவும் இப்போது நின்று விட்டது. 

NDTV தொகுப்பாளினிகள் மீது ஜெயமோகனுக்கு என்ன கோபமோ போட்டுத் தாளித்து விட்டார். கமல ஹாசனை மாதிரியே அத்தொகுப்பாளினிகள் ஆங்கிலத்தை மேலை நாட்டு உச்சரிப்போடு பேசுகிறார்கள் அவ்வளவு தான். இணையத்தின் தயவில் NDTV கும்ப மேளா பற்றி வெளியிட்ட காணொளி ஒன்றைப் பார்த்தேன். அது குறிப்பாக இந்தக் கும்ப மேளாவில் சுத்தம் பற்றியது. மிகவும் சிலாகித்திருந்தார்கள். வந்திருந்தோரும் சிலாகித்திருந்தார்கள். நல்ல டாகுமெண்டரி தான். மகிழ்ச்சித் தரும் இன்னொரு முக்கிய அம்சம் விழாவுக்கு வரும் சிறுவர்கள் காணாமல் போனால் அடையாளம் காணும் விதமாக 'RAdio Frequency Chip' கொடுக்கப்பட்டதாம் (https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/radio-frequency-identification-tags-for-children-under-14-at-kumbh-mela/cid/1681748) அரசாங்கம் மெனக்கெட்டிருக்கிறது. வாழ்த்துகள். NDTV காணொளி கீழே:

இந்தக் கும்ப மேளாவின் ஏற்பாடுகளில் அரசியல் இல்லாமல் இல்லை எதிர் வரும் பாராளுமன்ற தேர்தலுக்கு முன் வரும் பெரும் இந்து திருவிழா. வரிந்துக் கட்டிக் கொண்டு அரசாங்கம் வேலைச் செய்திருக்கிறது. தன்னைக் காண வரும் தலித்துகளைச் சோப்புப் போட்டுக் குளித்து விட்டு வரச் சொன்ன யோகி ஆதித்தியாநாத் புனித நீராடியிருக்கிறார். சோப்புப் போட்டுக் கொண்டாரா என எனக்குத் தெரியாது. 

கும்ப மேளா பற்றி இணையத்தில் தேடினால் கிடைத்த பல கட்டுரைகளும் இவ்விழாவின் பிரம்மாண்டம், ஆச்சர்யங்கள் பற்றியதே. இந்தியா டுடே அழகான புகைப்படங்களை வெளியிட்டுள்ளது (காண்க https://www.indiatoday.in/india/photo/kumbh-mela-2019-images-portraying-essence-largest-gathering-world-1433501-2019-01-18/2). ஒரு சுற்றுலா தளம் 5 நட்சத்திர ஏற்பாடுகளைச் செய்து தருகிறது. ரூபாய் 40,000 முதல் 1 லட்ச ரூபாய் வரை வாடகை குடில்கள் இருக்கின்றன.

செம்மொழி மாநாட்டுக்குப் போய் வந்த அதி தீவிர திமுக ஆதரவாளர் ஒருவர் இன்றும் அந்த ஏற்பாடுகள் பற்றி சிலாகித்துப் பேசுவார். அரசாங்கங்கள் நினைத்தால் எதையும் ஒழுங்காக ஒருங்கிணைக்கலாம் என்பது தெளிவாகிறது.

எனக்கு கூட்டமான எந்த நிகழ்வுமே ஒவ்வாமை தான். அது விளையாட்டாக இருந்தாலும் சரி இல்லை வேறு எந்த விழாவாக இருந்தாலும் சரி. ஜெயமோகனின் பதிவொன்றில் ஏதோ ஓரிடத்தில் அவரோ வேறு யாரோ ஒரு பலகையாலானப் பாதையில் அமர்ந்திருக்கும் காட்சியைப் பார்த்தப் போது தோன்றியது, "நம்மால் இதெல்லாம் முடியாது". 

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Kumbh_Mela_stampede
2. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/at-rs-4200-crore-this-years-kumbh-mela-costliest-ever/article26000869.ece
3. https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/at-kumbh-mela-religious-leaders-are-drumming-up-support-for-modi-and-yogi_in_5c5d200ae4b0a502ca34241d
4. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/over-a-dozen-injured-in-stampede-in-kumbh-mela-area/story-HP5tojhTjxEDu5ZlNUSJ3L.html
5. https://jeyamohan.in/118129#.XGTFfq3MxBw
6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1954_Kumbh_Mela_stampede
7. https://www.coxandkings.com/promotion/allahabad-kumbh-mela-2019/index.shtml?track=kumbhmela

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The #MeToo movement reaches India: A long overdue correction and some concerns

Sexual harassment is as old as the act of sex. Sexual relationship and the evolution of the family as a unit, with the woman as its focal point, was the driving force in the progress of civilization.

The #MeToo movement has forced a reckoning on inter-personal relationships, power structures and abuse of power unlike anything else in recent memory. This essay is only an attempt to collate the topics and provide a space for valid concerns about institutionalizing change and even the caution against a vigilante justice. We’re in the very early stages of a social upheaval and this essay should only be considered as grounds for further debate.

A Note:

Those who find the contextual use of graphic language, in discussing a mature topic and nuanced arguments, as offensive will find this essay to be offensive. Such readers, in our mutual interest, should stop here and proceed no further.

Before the #MeToo era:

The words ‘sexual harassment’ probably did not exist in 1929 when Bertrand Russell published his ‘Marriage and Morals’ and yet Russell writes with clarity, “sexual intercourse should only occur when both desire it and it should be approached invariably by a period of courtship”. “Sexual relations should be a mutual delight, entered into solely from the spontaneous impulse of both parties. Where this is not the case, everything valuable is absent.”

When does courtship become careless flirting and degenerate into harassment? Jodie Foster, playing FBI agent Clarice Starling, visits two male experts on moths to pursue a clue. While one male is intent in analyzing the clue the other, with ill concealed sexual desire in the eyes, asks, “agent Starling what do you do when you’re not detecting” and then he asks her out for dinner and a drink. A radiant looking Foster replies, “are you hitting on me Dr. Pilcher?”. I have watched this movie ten times before this week and this scene never struck me as odd but the MeToo conversations have made me see the scene afresh.

Here’s a career FBI agent merely pursuing a clue to a grisly murder and is reaching out to two experts. In an office a male feels its ok to ‘hit’ on her. This is by no means courtship but plain flirting that is inappropriate given the setting. It is mere Casanova type flirting because he’d have asked the same question to any other lady he fancied in the same setting without pausing for a moment to think he knows nothing of her and all that he’s focused on is getting her out for a drink and possibly leading to sex later. 

Now, add a dimension of the male being a boss. Is it mere flirting or a serious question that could impact the future prospects of the female in question? Does the male stop after being called out or refused? Sure, we are all biological beings with chemicals and evolution conditioning our responses but are we just as the mercy of a few chemicals and endocrine glands? Of course not, nature also endows us with better senses. The step from thinking its ok to hit on a lady asking for professional help to leveraging power to wrangle a consent is a short step.

Sexual harassment, as a lawyer explains to her male client wanting to sue his female boss in the movie ‘Disclosure, is “not about sex but about power. She has it, you don’t”. A sexual harasser is not looking for the kind of ‘mutual delight’ that Russell spoke of but by harassing a person, sexually, the harasser, intends to show a lack of respect for another human being. The dawn of the modern era where women step out of traditional roles and the women’s liberation movements tat spawned across societies have seen the woman negotiate her space and relationship to a man in every imaginable setting.

Pre-dating the #MeToo era, scientist Hope Jahren penned a column, “She wanted to do her research. He wanted to talk ‘feelings’” addressing how sexual harassment functions within the science community. Jahren spoke of how a scientist or a teacher would send emails to a student or researcher with subject tag lines like, “I need to tell you” or “my feelings” and then go on to establish a special relationship of trust with the receiver for opening up. It’d go on to comments on “sparkling eyes” and after testing waters would proceed audaciously to comment on “private parts”. Jahren advises that that first email is important because it’d be pointed out later by the harasser the recipient could’ve stopped it back then. Jahren’s suggestion is for women to “write back immediately, telling (not asking) him to stop”. 

Jahren’s column brought attention to a widespread problem within the academia. “Sexual harassment”, Jahren wrote, “is very rarely publicly punished after it is reported, and then only after a pattern of relatively egregious offenses.” This failure of institutions to carry out justice undergirds the most important element at the heart of the #MeToo movement. Soured by justice being denied by the portals of power the accusers turned to democratized social media platforms to channel accusations. That has created its own issues because outright grotesque conduct and far less egregious conduct are all bundled together and the accused, irrespective of the gravity of the offense, carries an universalized label, “harasser” or even “molester”. 

In 2016 Roger Ailes the very powerful CEO of Fox News was terminated from his employment after sexual allegations against him were investigated and found to be true. In April 2017 Bill O’Reilly, a very powerful and important political commentator, was fired after sexual harassment allegations against him were found to be true. Then came the Weinstein saga.

Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo Era: From USA to India. The differences. 

In October 2017 New York Times, after an extensive investigation, published a detailed expose of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein tormenting many women, including those who went on to become A-listers, sexually. Actress Alyssa Milano, borrowing a phrase from activist Tarana Burke, launched the #MeToo movement that encouraged women to share, via twitter and other media, stories of sexual harassment they had suffered. With that, it could be said, a revolution was unleashed.

A torrent of stories followed and much loved and admired celebrities were outed for sexually harassing women and in some cases men too. Many of the acts committed were sheer monstrosities. Bill Cosby, called ‘America’s Dad’ for his affable portrayal as a dad in the much loved eponymous T.V. series ‘Cosby show’, was convicted of drugging and raping women. 

Following the Weinstein revelations, Raya Sarkar, a law student at University of California, Davis, crowdsourced and published a list of 75 men in Indian academic institutions for sexually harassing women. The Raya Sarkar list and what followed illustrated several important aspects of the MeToo movement in India. How the allegations surfaced and how the institutions responded in India were markedly different from the American scene. Political differences, based on who is accusing and who the accused is, colored the reactions. The reactions included conspiracy theories, indifference, rapid rehabilitation of the accused and finally insensitivity on an unprecedented scale.

India’s MeToo movement properly took off nearly a year after the Raya Sarkar list. While the US movement saw its share of allegations via twitter most of the big names that were felled were the result of investigations by reputed news outlets like New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, New Yorker, and even the Wall Street Journal. The news outlets, both to protect credibility and to stave off lawsuits, often times used on-the-record accusations. India’s MeToo movement on the other hand was largely independently led by women using twitter and social media to air accusations. The news organizations later ran the accusations as news items, with little to no investigations or corroborations. 

Another important distinction between the responses in US and India is how the accused were investigated and forced out in their work places. In US, starting with Roger Ailes to Harvey Weinstein to Steve Wynn, Leslie Moonves and currently Neil deGrasse Tyson, the corporations had to undertake their own investigations before the accused were either forced out or put on notice. Legal and financial requirements were the chief factors in necessitating those investigations. Such investigations by the work places of the accused served to validate the news reports and when the accused were forced out not much could be said in their defense. On the contrary in India, so far, only public pressure and mounting allegations have mostly forced some, particularly like M.J. Akbar and Utsav Chakraborty, to be eased out of their jobs. 

Unlike the public personalities in the field of arts the Raya Sarkar list of academics in educational institutions had little effect because of the quintessential Indian apathy. Huffington Post reported that most institutions plainly ignored the list and one even gave the brazen excuse that they’d not take ‘suo motto cognizance’ of an accusation.

Chinmayi Sripada Accuses and Becomes a Voice:

On October 8th singer and dubbing artist Chinmayi Sripada became the focal point of #MeToo movement, quite unwittingly, when she accused legendary and much awarded film lyricist Vairamuthu of having propositioned her. Another lady narrated a similar incident about Vairamuthu and soon, Reihana Rahman, sister of A.R. Rahman, in a T.V. interview asserted that it was quite an open secret in Tamil film industry about Vairamuthu. Coming from A.R. Rahman’s sister that was quite a damning indictment given that Rahman and Vairamuthu had become over the last two decades a blockbuster combination in Tamil film music world. 

Ever since Chinmayi took on Vairamuthu she became a conduit for further allegations with several accusers, anonymously, sending her names and she publicizing them on twitter with the hashtags #metoo and #timesup. Chinmayi has a history with being embroiled in controversies on twitter. I’ll turn to the politics of opposition that engulfed Chinmayi’s accusations relating to Vairamuthu further in the essay.

Following the allegation against Vairamuthu, based on personal experience, Chinmayi then accused TAMBRAS (Tamil Nadu Brahmin Association) president of misconduct. He then called her an “Iyengar bitch”. Even as she was besieged on twitter by legions of Vairamuthu’s defenders, accusing her, a Brahmin, of trying to bring down a highly regarded non-Brahmin, Chinmayi rocked the closeted world of Carnatic music world by releasing a list of musicians, that included highly respected and awarded names, of being sexual harassers. Unlike the accusations against Vairamuthu, where Chinmayi spoke from personal experience, the carnatic music list was, it becomes apparent now, curated and handed over to her for publishing. Leena Manimekalai, activist and director, accused director Susi Ganesan of a rape attempt. 

Both Chinmayi Sripada and Leena Manimekalai ran into a buzzsaw of motivated defenders. In a country where journalists are little more than typists and anchors are nothing beyond those with a microphone and a camcorder the ladies were hounded for proof by inquisitors masking as interviewers. A press meet convened by Chinmayi Sripada and Leena Manimekalai devolved into a Salem Witch Trial with the ladies being pilloried and harangued by male journalists with completely insensitive questions.

The questions primarily revolved around consent and silence. What is consent? Why the silence, in many cases for years and even decades? Those questions were repeatedly used to deflect or even deny accusations. Both are difficult questions to answer and no black and white response exists.

The question of silence:

Reputed biblical scholar and academician Elaine Pagels in her newly published book, “Why Religion: A personal Story” recounts how a Lutheran minister, also a professor at Harvard Divinity School, assaulted her sexually. A Stanford Graduate in 1965 she had enrolled in Harvard Divinity School and was compelled by the professor to babysit for his children. Arriving around midnight he compelled Pagels to sleep in a couch in his basement and in the wee hours of the morning he crept in and fondled her breast. Pagels recounts, “In the morning I pretended everything was normal”. New York Times book review adds, “The best and the brightest women were expected to act as the young Elaine did”

It is too easy to sit in armchairs and say “she should have slapped him”, “she should’ve gone to the police”, “she should’ve complained to the university authorities”. The case of Steve Wynn, exposed by Wall Street Journal, illustrates how difficult it is for women, whether they are Stanford graduates or a pedicurist, to halt serial offenders in positions of power. Steve Wynn, casino mogul and a powerful player in the high echelons of American political circles, would compel women masseurs to masturbate him or have sex with him. Some complained to authorities in his casino organization and some received compensation too and others, until the WSJ expose, have not spoken openly.

The case of Uma Thurman’s harassment by Harvey Weinstein and betrayal by Quentin Tarantino illustrates the complexity of why women have rarely complained openly, especially in the field of arts where larger than life personalities are involved. In a lengthy interview with Maureen Dowd of New York Times Thurman recounted how Weinstein primed her, assaulted her and finally silenced her, for years. Weinstein, after the success of ‘Pulp Fiction’ used to “spend hours” offering suggestions and ideas to Thurman on career, an act that, Thurman says, “made her overlook the warning signs”. This mentor-mentee relationship as a stage setting for later harassment needs to be remembered when we analyze the sexual harassment claims that rocked the Carnatic music world in Chennai.

Steve Wynn’s employees facilitated his trysts and kept the lid on the accusations. Likewise Weinstein’s predatory acts were made possible by active and passive enablers. Following Thurman’s interview Quentin Tarantino confessed that he had been aware of Weinstein’s behavior for a long time and he was a factor in keeping Thurman silent as the duo were to launch, with Wienstein’s production company, a major movie, “Kill Bill”.
Chinmayi was repeatedly harangued by supporters of Vairamuthu, “how and why did you invite him to your wedding, why were you smiling? and if you did those then your allegation appears baseless”. 

The cases of Uma Thurman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Elaine Pagels, amongst many others, show how women who were harassed have often, for many reasons, remained not only silent in public but even seemingly had normal relationships with their tormentors.

Beyond simplistic answers of hostile environment and compelled to silence we lack even the psychological tools to understand the reactions. Mental trauma of rape victims, survivors of wars, wounded soldiers and others are being barely understood psychologically. The field of psychology and sociology is barely catching up with these complex issues. 

Chinmayi, for what it is worth, did clarify that she invited Vairamuthu to the wedding because she was inviting his son, her friend, and it’d be a scandal not to invite the father and that she smiled and sought blessings, as was custom, from all visitors. 

Whether it is journalist M.J. Akbar or Indian stand-up comedian Utsav Chakraborty the rumors have always swirled about them. Utsav Chakraborty was named in a sexting scandal, including sending pictures to an underage girl and his colleagues at his workplace have known his habits for a while. Likewise television actor Alok Nath was quite notorious for being a harasser. 

When the MeToo movement lists appeared in Tamil Nadu, quite often, there was no surprise at many of the names, rather, quite disgustingly, the responses were “oh that person”. A friend who studied in an Indian college recounted how a professor was notorious for asking lady students to meet him for classes in the evenings. Students were cautioned to go with a torch light (flash light as we say in US).

More often than not, men like Weinstein and Vairamuthu are quite publicly known to be harassers. Don't ask why women were silent or why they did not yell, rather ask how such monsters walked around with dignity in the halls of a university or a corporation or a music institution.

The issues of consent and question of evidence, unlike the question of silence, are fraught with more complications and it is necessary to see, briefly, how politics and  generational differences confronted MeToo movement.

Political Biases and Reactions:

When someone like Neil deGrasse Tyson or Vairamuthu or a professor in a left wing dominated university or a highly respected musician is accused his defenders reach into conspiracy theories. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson as defender of science was seen as being felled by conspiracy by conservatives. This is pretty much a tactic of defenders of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump too. 

Tamil Nadu has been poisoned with Nazi style hatred of Brahmins and Chinmayi was perfect fodder when she accused Vairamuthu, a non-Brahmin and a much admired figure of a powerful political party. Chinmayi was always very active on social media and when the issue of Sri Lankan ethnic strife played out in Tamil Nadu few rowdy elements literally harassed and physically threatened her on twitter for some of her views. She later took recourse to the law and had one of her harassers jailed. In this backdrop her accusations against Vairamuthu provided a fresh lease of life to not just her detractors but habitual Brahmin haters. To say that that the reactions were vitriolic is an understatement. Never mind the fact that two days later the same Chinmayi sent shock waves into the most cherished Brahminical institution, the world of Carnatic music. The onslaught continued. She was, because of her caste, portrayed as a stooge of BJP and it was alleged that she kickstarted this controversy to help the government divert attention from scandals. Of course, there was no merit in any of that.

Outspoken Left wing activist Kavitha Krishnan took issue with Raya Sarkar’s list that mostly targeted professors who were seen as sympathetic to the left and were part of educational institutions that are considered left wing. Krishnan and several others released a statement saying, “One or two names of men who have been already found guilty of sexual harassment by due process, are placed on par with unsubstantiated accusations. It worries us that anybody can be named anonymously, with lack of answerability”. The statement added, “there are institutions and procedures, which we should utilize”. Coming from left wing activists this is rich hypocrisy because they are the ones who not only do not trust the establishment and are often at the forefront in undermining trust in due process and established judicial means. 

Sexual Harassment and Biology:

After igniting a furor with his column “It’s time to resist the excesses of #MeToo” Andrew Sullivan lit a fuse with his “#MeToo and the taboo topic of nature”. The second column essentially argued that the male hormone testosterone is to be blamed for male sexual behavior. “All differences between the genders, we are told”, Sullivan wrote, “are a function not of nature but of sexism”. Pointedly he asked, “Is male sexual aggression and horniness a function of patriarchy or testosterone?”. Speaking from his experience as a male homosexual Sullivan said males, when it comes to sex, even when women are absent, behave precisely the same way. The sexual attitudes, including aggression, by males towards males is, he says, no different from males towards females and therefore its all a “boys will be boys”. Patricia Churchland, who specializes in neuro-philosophy, partly agrees with Sullivan but underscores that male or female we are not slaves to biology.

Many of the accused in the scandals could’ve easily procured sex for money and many did not lack opportunities for consensual relationship and most knew that they were demanding sex as a price and knew that they could get away with it. Sullivan was being too kind in ascribing the behavior to just hormones.

The MeToo revelations, in US and India, have often included incidents of males masturbating in front of women and walking away. Louis C.K, Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Vikas Bahl were some of such accused. Television actress Renuka Shahane recounted an incident of a room-service man in a hotel masturbating in front of her after delivering food. Louis C.K, outed for masturbating in front of women, published an apology letter of sorts that captures the dynamic at work here, “These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them.”

Of the many questions that the MeToo movement raised about psychology and the many grey-areas that emerged this propensity of males to masturbate in front of women depicts the situations difficult to assess. Is this propensity a mere case of exhibitionism at its extreme or is harassment the goal here? “David Ley, a clinical psychologist and author of "The Myth of Sex Addiction," said it is hard to know what motivates someone to do this”.

Why artists are prone to be sexual harassers?

When the #MeToo scandals unfolded it took a toll of some of the most respected and even loved male figures. Who’d have thought Bill Cosby, called ‘America’s most loved dad’, would be a relentless predator? Or a Neil deGrasse Tyson, considered an intellectual heir to Carl Sagan, be clouded by allegations? Throughout history intellectuals and geniuses have always had shady private lives to the point where one could say it is almost like a rite of passage to become a genius. 

“A study of 425 British men and women found the creative types averaged between four and ten partners, while the less creative folks had typically had three”. Daniel Nettle, who conducted the study said, “very creative types lead a bohemian lifestyle and tend to act on more sexual impulses and opportunities, often purely for experience's sake, than the average person would.”

Another study found that students at prestigious universities like Oxford and Cambridge were more likely to use drugs, stay up late and order more sex toys than comparable students elsewhere. A female worker “at a high-end sex shop” reasoned, “I think that the ability to engage in an open sex life comes with the abilities of introspection and logical thought, and those require some level of intelligence. If we're talking about an open sex life that comes from an emotionally healthy place, sexual mores are mostly made up anyway and intelligent people can rationalize past them.”

Whether it is artists in the music field or a CEO who is responsible for a line of blockbuster hits at a studio or a T.V. station they all function at a level where they are pushing the boundaries of social norms, through their art or their business acumen, and as result they do think that boundaries do not apply to them. Sexual boundaries are the most tempting to transgress. These men, mostly they are men, are also those who do get consensual partners fully aware of what they’re indulging in and that too feeds their ego to the level where when they see a female resist their advances the tendency to harass asserts itself. No man, or woman, who is not used to hearing a ‘no’ takes kindly to refusal. 

Is Atwood a ‘bad feminist’? The question of due process: 

Booker prize winning novelist and feminist Margaret Atwood found herself being labeled a ‘bad feminist’ for asking due process to prevail in the case of author Steven Galloway who was fired from his job by University of British Columbia. Atwood went to the heart of the complexities unleashed by internet based accusations. Key excerpts are:

 “The #MeToo moment is a symptom of a broken legal system. All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn't get a fair hearing through institutions – including corporate structures – so they used a new tool: the internet”. 

“If the legal system is bypassed because it is seen as ineffectual, what will take its place? Who will be the new power brokers?”

“In order to have civil and human rights for women there have to be civil and human rights, period, including the right to fundamental justice"      

Atwood cautioned, “understandable and temporary vigilante justice can morph into a culturally solidified lynch-mob habit, in which the available mode of justice is thrown out the window, and extralegal power structures are put into place and maintained”. Note, the caution against extra legal power structures for a later argument about Swarnamalya Ganesh and Radhika Ganesh in connection with the allegations against Carnatic musicians.

Question of Evidence, Raya Sarkar’s Limit and One Broad Brush:

Given the intimacy of these crimes or infractions most will not stand scrutiny in a court of law. This has led to a slogan asking us to believe every accuser. The very cornerstone of modern jurisprudence, presumption of innocence, has become casualty and anyone even asking a question of the evidence, let alone not believing an accuser, has been tarred as sexist or enabler.

Many of the accused, particularly in US, have either accepted guilt or proven to be guilty based on multiple credible accusations. This is a fact. Asking for a sympathetic hearing of the accuser or even giving the accuser a benefit of doubt is perfectly ok. However, there have been well publicized accounts of wrongful accusations too.

Much before the #MeToo era was the case of a stripper, an African-American, accusing a group of boys, all White, of Duke University’s  Lacrosse team of having molested her. An over eager prosecutor and racial politics made the case a lightning rod and later it turned out that the accusation was scurrilous and baseless. Recently one of the accusers against judge Brett Kavanaugh was found to have lied under oath of being molested by him. Another case in University of Virginia was likewise found to be baseless. Betsy Devos, Secretary of Education, is revamping rules governing adjudication of sexual assault in American universities that provide basic rights to the accused. So, yes false accusations by women do exist. The statistics about false rape accusations, pegged by the F.B.I, is at a low 8%. We should note that that is ONLY about rape charges and not the broader harassment charges.

Indian-American comedian Aziz Ansari faced a #MeToo allegation that turned out to be false. A girl alleged sexual harassment because Ansari failed “ignored clear nonverbal clues”. Bari Weiss, writing for New York Times, summed, “Put in other words: I am angry that you weren’t able to read my mind”. The article alleging Ansari harassed the woman was “met with digital hosannas by young feminists who insisted that consent is consent only if it is affirmative, active, continuous and — and this is the word most used — enthusiastic”. That Ansari, unlike the woman, was rich and a famous comedian implied, in the eyes of his accusers, a position of power whereas in reality he had no power over the said accuser. Essentially, Aziz Ansari was guilty of only one thing, “not being a mind reader”. 

From women misusing, on a large scale, a law meant to curb murders relating to dowries to girl students complaining about classmates to college authorities for merely propositioning India’s case rests on a different plane. No, this is NOT to suggest, even remotely, that sexual harassment charges by Indian women are suspect but merely to ask the reader to consider the possibility.

Between charges borne out by solid evidence and those that fall apart as baseless is the gray area of possible mischaracterization. The cases of scientists Neil deGrasse Tyson and Lawrence Krauss illustrate these best.

Physicist Lawrence Krauss was accused by several women of sexual harassment. One of the charges was that he groped a woman’s breast in public while she took a selfie with him. Krauss has put out on the internet a very detailed rebuttal of the charges including photographic evidence and emails from witnesses supporting his version. I’ll not begrudge him this defense. Arizona State University, where Kraus primarily worked, was on the verge of charging him with misconduct and only such a charging, per the process, would even allow him to appeal. Essentially he has to accept the charge in order to appeal. The University and Krauss agreed mutually that he’d resign at age 65 with no acceptance of wrongdoing. Krauss’s doc is publicly accessible and I’m sure vetted by legal counsel for protecting against victim shaming. 

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was accused of rape by one woman and harassment by two others. Tyson has denied the rape allegation and contextualized the harassment allegations. A woman alleged that Tyson traced a tattoo of the solar system and lifted the tops near the shoulder to see where Pluto was. Now, Tyson has a history with demoting Pluto as a planet and is known for his over exuberant attitude. He explains that while he is sorry about the conduct he was not harassing.

The Raya Sarkar list is a perfect example to critique the limitations of crowdsourcing allegations in a social movement. Historian Partha Chatterjee was one of the accused in the list. Chatterjee pointed out that his name was listed twice, once with an organization in Calcutta citing the number of violations as one but providing zero details on the incident and second time his name was mentioned against Columbia University with no details whatsoever. 

When Chatterjee demanded details Raya Sarkar replied via tweet in a self-righteous and outright arrogant manner. She said that some one else was maintaining the list and that the list was moved out of google docs because it is prone to hacking. She then said the person maintaining the list does not “need to explain” and she herself was busy studying for mid-terms and she concluded saying “if this is the only response, instead of taking accountability then never mind. The list will stay for students to be wary”. This is breathtaking arrogance. 

If Chatterjee is correct a perfectly innocent man has been besmirched. In Cyberspace the good and bad live forever, how can Sarkar ever make amends to Chatterjee? Oh and Raya Sarkar also blamed Brahminical patriarchy for Indian men sexually harassing women. Then what is the reason for American men and, in some cases, even women, sexually harassing others? 

A rape and a fumbling attempt to kiss are not the same and an attempt to kiss and a sexual innuendo are not the same and a sexual innuendo is not the same as an accidental brush during a selfie. 

The Ganesh Sisters as carpetbaggers and the Carnatic Music World:

To anyone who has followed my blog posts on Carnatic music it’d be apparent that I’m neither an admirer of that industry nor of some of the accused. That the industry is a cloistered one replete with casteism and male chauvinism are criticisms I’ve leveled repeatedly.

Like any industry Carnatic music too is plagued by sexual harassment and as I’ve asserted before as a field of art it is prone to sexual promiscuity and transgressions. The added complexity is teacher-student relationship that takes on a reverential guru-disciple tone in Carnatic music. The long tutelage from childhood, the necessary recommendations for a career and other factors create a ground for sexual harassment in Carnatic music. Every field has its own enabling factors and those are Carnatic music industry’s enablers for harassment.

The manner in which the allegations broke out about Carnatic music is indeed puzzling, by hindsight. Suddenly on October 9th Chinmayi released a list of names with no accompanying details or corroborations. Much that came out as details was what followed in subsequent days. The salacious nature of the accusations fed into a narrative and soon being accused in a list became evidence enough.

For example, as soon as the first list was released by Chinmayi she quickly followed up with a screen shot from a girl accusing O.S. Thiagarajan and Nagai Sriram and the girl accused Thiagarajan of molesting her but gave literally no detail of any accusation on Nagai Sriram beyond saying “add these names”. Then evidences start trickling in with little or no corroboration and the evidences range from horrific to “he touched the hip”. It was literal mayhem. Of course amidst this Chinmayi was facing her own storm of naysayers for her accusation about Vairamuthu. Chinmayi, is not New York Times or Washington Post or The Atlantic, and yet, possibly heady with the attention, without realizing what she was putting herself out for, Chinmayi became the de facto channel for accusers. 

Out of nowhere Radhika Ganesh and Swarnamalya Ganesh, two sisters, jumped into the fray and took on the Carnatic music list. Swarnamalya is a yesteryear actress and now dancer and academician. Radhika Ganesh was largely unknown and now calls herself an activist. Radhika posted the Carnatic music list and referenced a crude joke from a tamil movie about a lengthy grocery list. That’s how they approached this serious issue.
Swarnamalya, though connected to the film world, took only a passing interest in the Chinmayi-Vairamuthu affair and even as dancer though she claimed to know of harassers, in a separate post, she refrained from naming them herself. Srinidhi Chidambaram, a dancer, wondered at the near total absence of accusations in the Bharatanatyam world. A girl recounted a harassment by Pappu Venugopal Rao and how Padma Subrahmanyan, a popular and legendary dancer, when informed of it brushed it aside. Swarnamalya called out Venugopal Rao but remained conspicuously silent about Padma, possibly in the interest of her own career.

In this backdrop Swarnamalya released a letter announcing a Public Consultation Process and said she had reached out to “Ek Potlee Ret Ki which is an activist collective that has been working on cultural identities”. Now, ‘Ek Potlee Ret Ki’ is run by her lesser known sister Radhika and that was not mentioned let alone the fuzzy verbiage about them being a “activist collective” working on “cultural identities”. It is not far fetched to say the sisters fashioned themselves a bandwagon. 

The Public Consultation Process, as per a later Facebook recounting the event, selected 12 cases out of 98 and presented them. That raises the question of who were named as part of the 12 cases and why were they considered representative and would not the remaining 86 then go scot free. Essentially, just 10% were outed and such accused could fairly claim that they were handpicked by the sisters. This is classic vigilante justice.

Mandolin Rajesh, for example, was called out as “sexual predator” by an accuser who alleged that he was trading on the name of his deceased and more famous brother. The accuser said he had several affairs and fathered an illegitimate child. From thereon the charges were plainly scurrilous and barely substantiated. Is it possible that Rajesh is a harasser or even predator? Yes. But the proof supplied leaves one wondering. This allegation was prefaced by Swarnamalya as “haven’t you puked enough today? Here is more.” Madame Defarge would’ve been subtler.

Posting a message about Sashikiran with screenshots of messages from an accuser Radhika ranted in the preface, “Looks like your “genius” brother Chitravina Ravikiran and you the “prodigy” are running a racket to trap, abuse, harass, intimidate and terrify woman.Your music is worthless without morals. You art is your weapon and your students and admirers your prey.” Note, at this point Ravikiran had only been named in that Chinmayi list but no evidence had been forthcoming. Why tag a man just because she had screenshots of an allegation concerning his brother? The ranting language is precisely the pitfall of this kind of vigilante attitude and not one that a New York Times article or a proper investigator would use or even someone truly just interested in justice. 

Radhika mentioned having known Sashikiran and that she was ashamed for it. However, she did not mention in what manner she had known Sashikiran. In the interest of disclosure that should’ve been said. When Ravikiran protested that his name, without evidence at that point, was being unnecessarily tagged Radhika retorted, “I am a sociopolitical activist and I work extensively on gender issues. You do not need to know me for me to #CallYouOut on your misogyny and abusive behaviour. Btw, your brother Shashikiran Kn knows me quite well. The #MeToo movement has arrived to tell people such as yourselves who misuse and abuse art and power that your #TimesUp. I will not take down this post and I will pursue all action against you.” 

The invectives and innuendoes are wrapped in exceeding self-righteousness. Accusing the brothers of running a racket, being misogynist and declaring their music is worthless without morals all make one wonder if justice for an accused is the only motive here.

The drip, drip of accusations of various hues continued when finally on Oct 24th, a fortnight after the allegations were first made, screenshots of a survivor accusing Chitravina Ravikiran, a Sangita Kalanidhi awardee, were published. Radhika Ganesh said, “We were processing these with stringent due diligence and through due process, but your trolls and “supporters” have mounted so much pressure on me that I am cornered to put these out in public today.” This is breathtaking, the man was accused on Oct 9th and, in all fairness, this diligence should've PRECEDED the announcement NOT after. To add to the cacophony another person commenting on the thread asserted coolly, “once an abuser always an abuser”. 

Ravikiran defended himself first with a Facebook post in which he published email exchanges, carefully redacting personal information, between himself and who he thought was his accuser to establish that the relationship was one of mentoring and caring one. The Ganesh sisters took umbrage that he was intimidating. At this point no detailed evidence had been provided. Ravikiran had every right to defend himself against an accuser. When I read Lawrence Krauss's document that he published, also redacted, to establish his innocence I was reminded of Ravikiran's post and I do think he had every right to do that, particularly when he had taken care to redact personal markings.

Ravikiran then published an article defending his innocence and openly narrating an abuse he had suffered at the hands of a male teacher. I'm listing these as facts that happened without arrogating to myself the right to judge any side as valid or invalid. 

Now, the intention here is not to exonerate anyone or whitewash anyone’s linen. If any of the above are guilty then so be it. But it is precisely this kind of vigilante justice that eventually degenerates into blood lust and rolls like a juggernaut over the guilty and innocent alike. Serious and tragic issues have become casualties of trigger happy fingers with a keyboard and a phone. 

As if the drama was not enough the Music Academy, the self styled custodian of all things Carnatic music, decided to ban the accused musicians from their then upcoming prestigious December music season. Contrary to first impressions the Academy had not undertaken any independent investigation, like how Weinstein’s Company or Fox News did in response to the allegations, but just used the Chinmayi list as evidence. One wonders why an institution, never given to immediate reactions, reacted with such promptness, or dare I say, haste.

We do not know, yet, if the Internal Complaints Committee, formed by the collegium of Sabhas has received the above accusations in a formal manner. Else, as Lawrence Kraus put it, the accused face a Kafkaesque situation of facing off anonymous allegations hanging as a pall over their reputations with no closure. This is bad for the accusers too because this condition has also provided the excuse for the accused to resurface. One cannot begrudge that either.

It should also be noted that with the screenshots being published on October 24th about Ravikiran the sisters pretty much went silent on anything further on this topic and no new allegations have cropped up since. Accusation about Ravikiran was, in a way, the denouement, a sort of “Mission Accomplished”, and that evidence too came 15 days after the list first surfaced in a tweet with no evidence. Let me reiterate, Ravikiran’s guilt or innocence is a separate question from questioning the sequence of events and what unfolded. It is absolutely not my place to defend or accuse anyone of guilt. 

Chinmayi realized the limits of her being a conduit for the allegations when a prankster played a sick joke of using her to relay an unsubstantiated claim about a film dance master. Though the charge was later withdrawn it damaged the process. It was a sick joke but it showed why Raya Sarkars and Chinmayis have limits. 

There have been cases of suicides of a few accused, in other cases not discussed here, where the charges later turned out to be baseless. This is serious business. Let the carpet baggers stay away. Swarnamalya Ganesh, after all the pompous righteousness, was seen recently, after an event by her, posing happily alongside dance critic and accused harasser, Sunil Kothari.

Atonement, forgiveness and how to relate with flawed geniuses:
Many, or almost all, of these sexual harassment claims will not see daylight in a court of law. As such there’s no formal legal punishment for any of the perpetrators. The absence of legal proceedings complicates simplistic notions of time served as penitence and we’re in no-man’s land about sincere apologies and those offered with little contrition and matter of fact just wanting to move on.

Jill Filipovic, writing for Time, put it well, “There is also the question of what atonement means, and what it looks like to truly take responsibility for one’s own choices and one’s own life.” She then asked, “What do offenders need to do for us to be comfortable with them resuming activities that initially brought them power or fame? How far is too far to earn back our trust?”

A connected question is what do we do with the work of a genius who’s private conduct was reprehensible. Jean Paul Sartre, Louis Menand wrote, was the “classic womanizer” and Simone de Beauvoir, “was the enabler”. Gandhi had his Brahmacharya experiments. Wagner was an anti-semite, Rousseau was an exhibitionist and the list goes. Man or woman, their foibles aside let’s celebrate their genius and their works, whether it is a scientific equation or an opera or a painting or a book. While we celebrate the genius let us always remember, without whitewashing, who they were as mortals. One should not be done to the exclusion of the other.

Chinmayi and a Culture of Retaliation

In a Facebook post I compared Chinmayi to the mythical war hero Abhimanyu who fights a valiant but futile battle and falls on the battlefield. India’s laws are still taking shape about dealing with sexual harassment and protecting whistleblowers. Retaliation is common in the Indian setting. Chinmayi, a member of the dubbing artists union, was not only dropped from the union, thus depriving her of being able to function as a dubbing artist, the leader unleashed women from the union who advised Chinmayi to go wash dishes in homes. The leader of the union, actor Radha Ravi, known for his foul mouth was an accused. 

Manasi Karthik’s article in First Post illustrates, literally in pictorial fashion, how the Internal Complaints Cell (ICC), mandated by Indian law, often falls short. The ICC at JNU deemed a student’s complaint as frivolous and intends to bar the student from campus and ‘withdraw her degree’. The government has set up a committee of ministers to examine change to law and the minister not in the committee is the law minister. The law also limits participation of junior members of an organization in the ICC and instead populates it with senior management, who are often the colleagues of an accused. 

The case of Catholic nuns being retaliated against by a Kerala church, for accusing a male priest of being serial molester, is a depressing case of how the laws are feeble in India.

Curbing a #MeToo Backlash:

American Vice President Mike Pence famously said that he’d never have lunch with any lady alone if his wife was not present. A Wall Street Journal article spoke of possible backlash against women in hiring process and offered guidelines. It is no different from saying “I don't want to be accused of racism and therefore let me not hire blacks”. It is stupid and reprehensible. The rule is simple, “don’t be a jerk”, respect a women as a colleague or an employee or as neighbor. Respect the private space. There is no room for a raunchy joke at an office meeting whether or not there are women in the vicinity. 

Unlike US where not hiring a woman for being a woman would violate the Equal Employment law India, to my knowledge, has no such law. Another, area of serious concern for India.

If you want express interest in a woman remember Bertrand Russell’s rule, “sexual relations should be a mutual delight, entered into solely from the spontaneous impulse of both parties”. 

Every industry reacted with, “we’re not alone, sexual harassment happens everywhere”. True. This is not a conspiracy to undermine any one industry or art. I completely reject Carnatic musician Sowmya’s contention that the allegation about Carnatic musicians was motivated to undermine the art. Carnatic music industry should evolve rules of conduct between teachers and students. A simple thing for any parent to do is to be there with a child during classes and encouraging children to confide in their parents of any wrongdoing. It’d do well for Carnatic music to dispense with the exceeding reverences to gurus. This is a materialistic world and these teachers are material mortals.

A long overdue social correction is happening let’s nurture it, guide its discourse, question it too but let’s not extinguish it, by any means. 


  1. Raya Sarkar List https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2018/10/25/metoo-in-india-75-professors-30-institutes-what-happened-to-raya-sarkar-s-list-of-sexual-harassers_a_23571422/
  2. Kavita Krishnan Statement https://kafila.online/2017/10/24/statement-by-feminists-on-facebook-campaign-to-name-and-shame/
  3. Raya Sarkar interview https://www.buzzfeed.com/karthikshankar/why-i-published-a-list-of-sexual-predators-in-academia
  4. https://www.thequint.com/neon/social-buzz/raya-sarkar-clarifies-intent-of-facebook-list-of-sexual-predators-on-twitter
  5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/10/31/after-metoo-a-facebook-list-names-south-asian-academics-some-say-its-a-step-too-far/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.804328c06150
  6. Partha CHatterjee  https://thewire.in/education/partha-chatterjees-statement-name-shame-campaign
  7. Aziz Ansari https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/15/opinion/aziz-ansari-babe-sexual-harassment.html
  8. MeToo backlash  https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-rising-pressure-of-the-metoo-backlash
  9. Bhuvana Seshan corroborates Chinmayi on Vairamuthu https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5&v=6Zyd_2VtPVY
  10. Misogyny at press meet  https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/when-misogyny-reared-its-ugly-head-at-a-press-meet/article25290304.ece
  11. A.R. Raihanah interview  https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/several-women-have-told-me-about-vairamuthu-composer-and-rahmans-sister-ar-reihana-90352
  12. Chinmayi press meet  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz-l5n8-E90
  13. Shaming of Chinmayi dress https://twitter.com/Chinmayi/status/1056536595015327744
  14. Harvey Weinstein  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/us/harvey-weinstein-harassment-allegations.html
  15. Margaret Atwood's column https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/am-i-a-bad-feminist/article37591823/
  16. Louis C.K. apology and acceptance https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/11/10/louis-c-k-these-stories-are-true/?utm_term=.b573a90d91ef
  17. Charlie Rose https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/eight-women-say-charlie-rose-sexually-harassed-them--with-nudity-groping-and-lewd-calls/2017/11/20/9b168de8-caec-11e7-8321-481fd63f174d_story.html?utm_term=.b853b6ebdb28
  18. Mark Halperin https://money.cnn.com/2017/10/25/media/mark-halperin-sexual-harassment-allegations/index.html
  19. Elaine Pagels' Book Review NYT https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/04/books/review/why-religion-elaine-pagels.html
  20. Steve Wynn https://www.wsj.com/articles/dozens-of-people-recount-pattern-of-sexual-misconduct-by-las-vegas-mogul-steve-wynn-1516985953
  21. Uma Thurman  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/03/opinion/sunday/this-is-why-uma-thurman-is-angry.html?module=inline
  22. Masturbation as harassment https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/09/health/masturbation-sexual-harassment/index.htm
  23. ICC not enough https://www.firstpost.com/india/the-icc-is-not-enough-lessons-from-metoo-on-the-limitations-of-sexual-harassment-law-5771281.html/amp?fbclid=IwAR1FOz5Zlg4iLCE9MfPAGA-pk2_qPp8A3dr153AhegOEYNL1AuiUEJ_OJXg
  24. Leena Manimekalai on Susi Ganesan https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/kollywood-s-metoo-filmmaker-leena-manimekalai-speaks-out-director-susi-ganesan-90066
  25. https://www.livescience.com/3938-creative-types-sex-partners.html
  26. Smarter people and sex and drugs Esquire article https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a26244/smart-means-sex-and-drugs-and-staying-up/
  27. Hope Jahren article https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/opinion/sunday/she-wanted-to-do-her-research-he-wanted-to-talk-feelings.html
  28. Lawrence Kraus doc dump https://drive.google.com/file/d/10lHwatvaGfmWNc3NdoioncYi7daK1a-M/view
  29. Lawrence Krauss https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/peteraldhous/lawrence-krauss-sexual-harassment-allegations
  30. MeToo in the world of Carnatic Music and Bharathanatyam https://scroll.in/article/897917/metoo-in-world-of-carnatic-music-and-bharatanatyam-women-say-harassment-is-an-open-secret
  31. https://thewire.in/the-arts/artists-open-letter-sexual-predators-carnatic-music-metoo
  32. Cleveland Thyagaraja festival accusations https://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/2018/10/petitioners-spotlight-accusations-of-sexual-misconduct-by-performers-at-large-cleveland-indian-music-festival.html
  33. Andrew Sullivan, MeToo and Nature http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/01/sullivan-metoo-must-choose-between-reality-and-ideology.html
  34. Andrew Sullivan and the excess of MeToo http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/01/andrew-sullivan-time-to-resist-excesses-of-metoo.html
  35. Rebuttal to Sullivan https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/01/no-metoo-isnt-mccarthyism/550505/
  36. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/may/11/how-metoo-revealed-the-central-rift-within-feminism-social-individualist
  37. Chitraveena Ravikiran accused https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/carnatic-musician-ravikiran-sexually-harassed-me-two-former-students-say-me-too-90663
  38. Ravikiran's article that detailed him being abused https://inmathi.com/2018/10/15/14350/
Carnatic Music List and FB Posts by Swarnamalya and Radhika Ganesh:

  1. Oct 8th Vairamuthu
  2. Oct 9th CM list
  3. Oct 9th Pappu Venugopal Rao and silence of Padma Subrahmanyan https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2174081089270383 
  4. Oct 10th B.M. Sundaram https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2175181182493707 
  5. Oct 10th Ramesh Prabha https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2175559372455888 
  6. Oct 11th Letter by Swarnamalya…introduces Ek Potlee Ret Ki https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2176444092367416&set=a.101101259901720&type=3 
  7. Oct 11th https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2176675979010894&set=a.225416384136873&type=3 TAMBRAHM president
  8. Oct 11th Mandolin Rajesh https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2176781409000351    Appears scurrilous
  9. Oct 11th Sashikiran https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2177080258970466 
  10. Oct 12th Sethumadhavan https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2177677748910717&set=a.225416384136873&type=3 
  11. Oct 12th Proof against OST https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2177965208881971 
  12. Oct 13th Singer Karthik https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2179109875434171?__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARAuzp3qHe7f-pcOM5bD2p4qcWEd_qjhT7cwLVV4bpVEMFzzGzM5q4o2c-XCkfZh8NjlLj8jXUUKMDw4n6Sq5uAjAjIegrOCn0U94QudM3yfBnmrqotiBiRo4k5-aYgMKon_l7hbimTY0SBHZ3dBqVb0MFsTu3-6wi1DfZmUxg6h_hPevrlJbx1mz7PmwCNY5KwYy5fpXaNW0ZDF&__tn__=-R 
  13. Oct 13th Ramesh Prabha https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2179265502085275 
  14. Oct 14th Dance world silent https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2180826851929140 
  15. Oct 14th Mannargudi Easwaran https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2180937838584708  
  16. Oct 14th Karthik TMK https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2181465005198658 
  17. Oct 15th Kumbakonam Swaminathan https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2181970465148112 
  18. Oct 15th Karthik TMK again https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2182263668452125 
  19. Oct 16th Ramnarayan Venkatraman https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2183512934993865?__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARCzkT5AwNCn4beBcr2_IvylHeXd-N7f_7fhHAlTXrJIvXzXFX0bXeF9DYpX4uezzaAjf0BqUn3d5XgjZK6rcL-_KoqogusVHVLh-anmlPUoPM2PPBLY9cU9hJp4LSxBOsw_0JefziE_hrKPu0hqJf1MF92iG2CRvT-pCbCxZ59pTnrEfKe-C-_euHiqzj8R7X08BzHxhzZBb2HbHfT9Y0Zosio3mVFfaiDbk3vdG7Q57i7khGplf6g34_gChNWIekJ1sUUpLEmKY863-BR4wGLSLOEPOXVC9xNL3WZGLPpNlWOG4uZB7aufLeC9vLbJrg9EYsbs22DXcXKL6xkC_sgGxJg&__tn__=-R 
  20. Oct 17th Karthikeyan Ramanathan https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2185204191491406?__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARDdOux4eiDZNQaa2QF9F3dQ4kWJOLvF3Ks2mhsDue1yKmJqfxk07lBelImezTOzmS-R47Hf35iZ3k18ypoKWeT2z1Le41JqCZrHkQ2NV81ucauEimq4T8Ilg2CRNfjn12kxgpXfcFtVVqCO2oQSOuZEu2aKNFsbWcQGs1NXImS-9FKWEcSmOXia2ZeI2VVcBX7wJwal_6yjcdlm&__tn__=-R 
  21. Oct 17th Cleveland Aradhana and Rebuttal Rajna https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2185332938145198?__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARCwzxtkaWvjpxGqYYdaJ8UWM3n1q2ITLzk11l0UYrSmJyTIQ4wsQYh7NaT4sRgtnwULfY0NtU6LkVLd2YONMOj1zMHm5B15cfjLjOH8x4Z9WCfaKMdmxurN-kVOEXsbBUVe8KXEmAzc_c2tesH3t16BhHLSBRQEDUebylXPQzU7gREJ24kKTOn0_rYREnO8qwA0ePLJDgFa&__tn__=-R 
  22. Oct 22nd Sri Mushnam Raja Rao https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2191742547504237 
  23. Oct 22nd second girl says Sri Mushnam molested her https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2191746740837151 
  24. Oct 24th Ravi Kiran https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2194195593925599?__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARBwzp7R2DDmYVae3SdqiicHmBuszwgcWWYdxvAFNTw3o7pLH9KtLKFbSpv1JzQnteXQI4f6PYj6YwyJSOE55Mcyx9YHr3SLupZzIT5xsZ7egu-aw5wjTav9f9qqUdrVl4iZmo5G2ncbEiLAALFt4HX8UbEE0wAkT9XGxwMO9iX3Fqw63Q7YhuAlpkKTBgAzf60ymrJnA2mH6N_K&__tn__=-R 
  25. Oct 27th article on Ravi Kiran https://www.facebook.com/swarnamalyaganeshdancer/posts/2199095150102310 
  26. Radhika Ganesh Varadu Kutty list https://www.facebook.com/ganesh.radhika/posts/10156378962651001 
  27. CHinmayi Tweet on Sashikiran https://twitter.com/Chinmayi/status/1049832956473163776 
  28. Chinmayi tweet on Ravi and others https://twitter.com/Chinmayi/status/1049641862674300928 
  29. Chinmayi on OST and Nagai SRiram https://twitter.com/Chinmayi/status/1049647913184325632