Why I do not want Modi to become India’s Prime minister

It is Parliament election time in India. The right wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the front runner and is assured of getting more seats in Parliament than other political parties. According to the opinion polls BJP lead alliance may get close to absolute majority. BJP is projecting Narendra Modi as the Prime minister. So if the opinion pollsters are right he will be Indian Prime minister by end of next month.
As the title of the post suggests I do not want Modi to be Indian Prime minister.
Let me try to explain rationally why I do not want him as Prime minister or BJP as the ruling party.

1. As an atheist and a rationalist I do not want a right wing political party founded on religious and national pride to rule my country.
BJP is a political party based on Hindutva ideology. It is the political wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the RSS.

What does RSS stand for?
“The Hindu culture is the life-breath of Hindusthan. It is therefore clear that if Hindusthan is to be protected, we should first nourish the Hindu culture”.

No rationalist can support politics based on religion.

2. BJP being a religion based party stand for many irrational things. See some of these excerpts from BJP manifesto.
“Ram Mandir: BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya”

“Cow and its Progeny: In view of the contribution of cow and its progeny to agriculture, socio-economic and cultural life of our country, the Department of Animal Husbandry will be suitably strengthened and empowered for the protection and promotion of cow and its progeny. Necessary legal framework will be created to protect and promote cow and its progeny.”

Ram is a Hindu god and Cow (not buffalo or goat) is a considered as sacred in Hinduism.
How can a rationalist support them?

3. BJP’s PM hopeful Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat when a genocide like situation happened. Gujarat riots were the most violent of all riots of 21st century in India. More than a thousand were killed, a large majority being minority Muslims, including a Member of Parliament. The riots occurred after the burning down of a railway coach and death of around 60 people who were a part of Viswa Hindu Parishad’s (an RSS affiliate) pilgrimage tour. The cause of the fire is still not clear, but probably occurred after a skirmish between Muslim vendors and RSS activists at the Godhra railway station.
Before starting of any enquiry, even before a first information report was filed by local police, Modi reached the site of tragedy and declared it is a conspiracy. He said:
“It (burning of the Sabarmati Express) was a pre-planned act. The culprits will have to pay for it. It was not communal violence. It was a violent, one-sided, collective act by only one community.”

A very irrational and dangerous statement deliberately made to instigate violence on minority Muslim community.
The following days saw large scale violence against Muslims all over Gujarat, with the Modi controlled Police not being much effective in protecting the life and property of citizens.
How can a rationalist support such a person who deliberately instigated violence in name of religion? He becoming PM can result in further riots and deaths of innocent lives. It is true that in India, most political parties indulge in tactics which may promote religion based violence. But the main instigator was always been RSS and its affiliated organizations, because majority religion always benefits from religious divide of society.

4. BJP being a religion/nationalism based party has its own distorted view of history which is in much variance from the actual history.
Here is what historian D.N Jha has to say about distorting history by Hindutva forces:
“The quest for India’s national identity through the route of Hindu religious nationalism began in the nineteenth century and has continued ever since. In recent years, however, it has received an unprecedented boost from those communal forces which brought a virulent version of Hindu cultural chauvinism to the centre stage of contemporary politics and produced a warped perception of India’s past. This is evident from the indigenist propaganda writings which support the myth of Aryan autochthony, demonise Muslims and Christians, and propagate the idea that India and Hinduism are eternal.”
Can a rationalist support a political party whose core ideology is based on distorted history?
5. BJP being a faith based political party staunchly supports god men and women, who fool the naïve believers by selling spirituality. Leaders in spiritual business like Sri Sri Ravisankar, Baba Ramdev and Mata Amrithanandamayi support BJP and BJP supports them strongly. Rationalists who question these god men are many a time physically assaulted by BJP cadre.
6. RSS, the force behind BJP is a men’s only club holding medieval patriarchal values. For RSS, role of women in society is only as good mothers and wives, nothing else.
I can come out with many more reasons for not supporting Narendra Modi, but these are the core issues.
I will conclude by saying a vote for Modi/BJP is a vote for a faith/hyper nationalism based Government which will actively promote divisiveness in society, irrational beliefs, patriarchy and distorts history.
That is why I do not support BJP/Modi.

Links
RSS
BJP Manifesto
History distortion
on Gujarat riots

An appeal to all voters in India

Dear fellow citizens

Sixty seven years ago, independent India adopted a democratic constitution that created a platform for equality and justice by ensuring the participation of all. Our constitution-makers were concerned to maintain a secular society free from any divisions of caste, sect and religion.

What has become of that vision? A large part of the population lives in extreme poverty. Millions of Indians are denied their fundamental rights. There are strong linkages amongst powerful capitalists, biased officials and unscrupulous political representatives. The political system is in danger of being taken over and run for the benefit of the rich, rather than for the vast bulk of the Indian people. Communal forces of all colours thrive in our society. Their growth has been evident since the Delhi carnage of 1984. Biased behavior has appeared in the media, police, bureaucracy and executive. We are witnessing the criminalisation of the state. One example of this is the operation of private armies all over the country.

The Sixteenth Lok Sabha elections are an opportunity for us to preserve democracy. The RSS has emerged as a direct participant, discarding its ‘cultural’ mask. It has openly intervened in the major decisions of the BJP. Its ideology is based upon a fanatic version of nationalism . The so-called Parivar has been implicated in numerous communal incidents and the destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992. Today vast amounts of money and cadre have been mobilized in the cause of the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate. This person is an incompetent Chief Minister who presided over the crime committed in Godhra and the orgy of rape, murder, arson and looting that followed. In many cases, intervention from outside Gujarat was required to secure justice. Zakia Jafri’s husband and neighbours were butchered, and she is still asking the courts to indict Modi for criminal conspiracy. A police investigation report is being hailed as if it were a judicial acquittal. In 2003 Modi’s rival Haren Pandya was killed in a so-called terrorist attack – his widow is still fighting for justice. Modi has tried to boost his popularity through fake encounters and accusations of assassination plots, many of these cases are still in the courts. Gujarat’s anti-terrorist police units were directed to spy upon a woman who was not even suspected of being a terrorist. Narendra Modi bears responsibility for the collapse of law and order in Gujarat. We may note that Gujarat’s state assembly has functioned on average 30 to 32 days per year.

One of Modi’s ministers has been convicted of illegal mining practices. Another was in office until she was charged with conspiracy and murder. Modi resisted the appointment of a state Lokayukta for ten years from 2003. When the Governor and Chief Justice selected Justice R. A. Mehta for the post in 2011, Modi spent crores in legal fees to challenge the appointment. After the Supreme Court upheld it, the state government refused to cooperate with Mehta, leading him to decline the position. Then it amended the Lokayukta Act to make it a toothless body. Modi may have learned a lesson from the fate of his friend Yedyurappa, former BJP Chief Minister of Karnataka. Yet he talks of rooting out corruption!

These are some features of the ‘Gujarat model’. What will result under a central government controlled by Modi and his corporate backers? We have seen how peaceful protests against the Patel statue, or a nuclear power station in Bhavnagar have met with police repression. Gujarat records the highest number of attacks on RTI activists. Gujarat remains a bastion of Dalit oppression. Surveys have found the practice of untouchability in over 90% of villages and manual scavenging present even in Ahmedabad. Seizures of land at low prices, violation of environmental regulations, erosion of workers rights, phone-tapping and contempt for the rule of law will affect farmers, workers, women, democratic activists and honest officials. Modi has used his position to accuse India’s Defence Minister of being a Pakistani agent. Soon anyone daring to criticise Modi will be hounded as a traitor. Is this what we need in a prime minister?

The health of Indian democracy requires that such political forces be checked and defeated. Despite their talk of development, their strong links with corporate interests should warn us of the danger of political tyranny. If this continues, it will endanger the rights not only of this or that particular group, but the very survival of constitutional democracy. Do not be fooled by talk of a stable government. Only dictators think stability is more important than constitutionally guaranteed citizens’ rights.

We must choose political forces that stand for humanity, equality and justice. Choose an inclusive, not divisive idea of India. Use your vote for socio-economic emancipation. Defend your right to obtain justice, to think freely, to protest and to struggle for a better life. Reject communal hate and choose mutual respect and dialogue. This is our vote. This is our country. We call upon voters to defeat authoritarian forces in the coming elections.

In Solidarity,

People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism

For feedback, query and suggestions please mail us to padsprocess@gmail.com
Originally posted here

Holy Hell of an Ashram

This post written by me was first published in Taslima Nasrin’s blog here

It has been few weeks since the book written by former disciple of the so called hugging saint Amrithanandamayi has started making waves in social media in Kerala in south India. The book named “Holy Hell, A memoir of faith devotion and pure madness” is written by Gail Tredwell, a former devotee and close assistant of Sudhamani (Amrithanandamayi). The book reveals the dirty underbelly of the Ashram with revelations of rape, sexual encounters between Sudhamani and her senior “celibate” swamis, financial irregularities and cut throat rivalries between those in the Spirituality business. By contrast the mainstream media, always hungry for controversies and scandals, strangely remained silent until the Ashram made its first public statement of denial. Though there is no definite proof of veracity of revelations, the book it seems to me is a highly credible account of her experiences at the ashram.

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Gail Tredwell was born and educated in Australia. Coming from a dysfunctional family background, she reached India on an Asian tour in search of elusive happiness and meaning of life. She was 19 when she landed in India in 1978. Falling instantly in love with Indian spirituality, she began her search for a guru to show her the way to salvation. Finally in 1980, her search ended as she became a devotee and assistant of Sudhamani. Sudhamani was then called Ammachi and was a member of fishermen community near Kollam in South Kerala. During those days she used to act as Krishna and Devi (gods of Hinduism) at her family shrine and bless devotees by hugging. Her fame spread as there were stories of her performing miracles. As the disciples increased, including some people of white skin, her popularity surged. An Ashram was constructed and later she became Mata Amrithanandamayi as she proclaimed herself to be a saint. By the time the disillusioned Gail Tredwell left the Ashram after 20 years of devoted service, the mutt has grown up to a multimillion dollar empire comprising of several branches all over the world, hospitals, several colleges and schools and even a deemed University.
With in 2 years of service at Ashram, Tredwell came to know about one of the lies that are being spread about Sudhamani. Her devotees where told that she is ‘pure’ and do not have menstruation. But one day Tredwell was witness to the event. See how she describe it in her book
For a moment I was in shock. But I let it go. This discovery did not affect my faith. It made me feel trusted and special. She had her menstruation every month from that day onward, and I did my best to help her conceal the fact. I always knew it was a secret. Not once did it ever cross my mind that it was a lie. I was so wound up in my devotion and in holding onto my dream position that the full implications of the deception were lost on me. I either blocked out or completely forgot the truth. Her biography clearly stated that she was“pure.” Amma obviously knew this claim to be incorrect. She allowed it to be published anyhow”.
Tredwell was in such a blind devotional trance that she could not understand this as plain deception. Also this underlines the patriarchal basis of Indian Spirituality, were a menstruating woman could not be called a saint.
Tredwell describes how the second in command of the Ashram, Balu raped her several times. Why she never reported it to Amma? She explains.
“I tried to argue and plead my way out, but he was obsessed and relentless. I felt trapped. If I didn’t oblige, he would start sulking and acting weird. People would begin to wonder what was going on. If this ever came to light, I would be the one to suffer. I would be the one punished—not Balu. Amma had never shown any leniency to me before, so I had no reason to believe this time would be any different. The common notion in India is that Western women possess loose morals. I believed I would be blamed, possibly kicked out of the ashram, and most definitely no longer allowed to serve Amma. I knew I couldn’t live with such consequences. I felt I had no other choice but to succumb to his demands—to his manipulation“.
She also talk about sexual encounters between senior Swamis (who were supposed to be celibate) of the Ashram and Sudhamani. There are also vivid descriptions of the verbal abuse and physical assaults Tredwell and few other women disciples had to endure from Sudhamani.
Within a few months of getting my robes, history began repeating itself. Once more I was being hit, kicked, slapped, and thrown out of her room. She even invented a new form of punishment for me when she was really angry. Grabbing me by the throat with one hand, she would dig her nails
in and rip towards the center, scraping the skin as she went. I was then left with bright red scratch marks across my throat, and sometimes blood
”.
To a keen observer of such spiritual ashrams of India, the book is never shocking. Such tales has been told by several former disciples about gurus and swamis of all hues. It’s said that there are two types of spiritual gurus and god men. Those caught out as fake and those yet to be caught.
Most interesting about this book is how beautifully it reveals the mind of a theist. Gail Tredwell was convinced that there is a hidden meaning for life, which can only be revealed to her by a guru. She was in search of elusive happiness outside her material world. Though she receives setbacks after setbacks she remains convinced that all these bad experiences were there to test her devotion. See how she rationalizes the sexual encounters between Sudhamani and Swamis.
“I didn’t want to leave the ashram and give up what I believed to be the opportunity of many lifetimes. This was my life, my family, all I knew, and all I wanted. I had myself convinced that I was on the express train to God, and I couldn’t imagine being pushed off at full speed. In that moment I made a choice. I vowed myself to silence. Mustering every ounce of justification juice, I accepted this behavior as Amma’s way of “keeping it in the family.” Because she is one with God (I explained to myself), she’s beyond any form of human desire, longing, or attachment. She’s letting these senior fellows release any pent-up sexual frustration upon her as part of the bigger picture in her mission to save the world”.

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Gail Tredwell rationalized like this for 20 years, before she became wise enough to escape. Even then for several years she continued to suffer from severe mental trauma. Only now she could come out of her closet to write a memoire, to get everything out of her system. She writes
“I offer my story with the sincere hope that it will illustrate to spiritual seekers the downside of blind faith, and that surrender to a guru/teacher is sometimes mind control in disguise. Perhaps some readers will now recognize that they too have turned a blind eye to reality in order to protect their beliefs. I hope that those who doubt will feel free to question, those with questions will find answers, and those already suffering the wounds of betrayal and disillusionment will find consolation and validation.
Ultimately, I hope this book will empower those trapped in any form of abusive relationship or unhealthy situation to find the courage to step away and to trust that an amazing life awaits them—a life full of unexpected blessings and wonderful people”.

This book if widely read may slightly reduce the popularity of Mata Amrithanandamayi. But the vast majority of susceptible theists will continue their elusive quest for salvation, going from one guru to another. As long as there is demand, the product of spirituality will sell like hot cakes.
Scientifically speaking life happened spontaneously, not for some definite purpose. Bacteria, mosquitoes or cows do not worry about the aim of their lives. It’s the highly developed human brain that makes us think about aims of life. Gail Treadwell’s experiences underline the fact that one has to find one’s own meaning for life and find happiness ourselves. Humanistic ideals can serve as a guide, but ultimately we are on our own. No guru or mata can help you. Only the lazy theist waits for an elusive guru or become a fundamentalist believer of a book or prophet or a mythical god. A rationalist finds her way herself.

Method of Science

A patient: Doctor, for treating Asthma which is better, Allopathy (Modern Medicine), Ayurveda or Homeopathy? Is Naturopathy and Acupuncture useful?
Me: How did you come to my clinic?
Patient: by bus.
Me: how did you book an appointment?
Patient: by telephone.
Me: I am sure you know that bus and telephone were discovered using the methods of Science.
Patient: yes.
Me: you must have had an x ray taken and your blood tested?
Patient: yes
Me: x ray machine and lab machines are all developed using methods of science, right?
Patient: yes.
Me: so is it not better that the therapies also be based on methods of science?
Patient: yes of course.
Me: if a therapy has to be scientific, it has to progress like this.
First an observation is made. Not a vague observation, but something that is rigorously quantified.
Then a hypothesis is made based on observation. Hypothesis is then tested. Based on the test result the hypothesis is revised. The revised hypothesis is again tested and hypothesis may again be revised. This goes on and on. Finally a hypothesis of medicine x is best for disease y will be proved convincingly and will appear in treatment protocols.
Science does not stop here. Results from treatment will be evaluated again and again, against newer and older methods. Treatment protocols change according to new findings. Thus the search for a better and better therapy continues for ever.
This is the method of Science. You can use which ever therapy that is discovered through this way.
Patient: you mean allopathy (modern medicine) is better, right?
Me: what I meant was it is the method of science that will give you the best therapy!

How I became an atheist?

This post written by me was first published here on the blog of renowned writer and atheist Taslima Nasrin. Thank you Taslima!

How I became an atheist?
Actually I do not remember much about my Theist life.
Was I ever a Theist?
Probably yes.
I was born into an upper caste Hindu family in Kerala, in south India. My family was not very religious, and routine visits to temples and special offerings to gods to get something done were rare. My parents did ask me to pray to gods, and I must have done that till I reached the age of 14-15. But my overall impression was in reality my parents did not believe in a typical Theist god, who controls everything in your life. They encouraged us children to work hard in school , and made us think that its your work that counts more than your offerings/prayers to gods. We celebrated the usual Malayali festivals like Vishu, Onam and Pooja.
My earliest introduction to Hinduism was through Mahabharatha and Ramayana , the mega Hindu (Indian) epics. I liked the Mahabharatha very much because it was a gripping tale with so much variety of characters and sub plots. My mother encouraged me to read alternate view points about the epics in which the ‘good’ guys like Pandavas and Rama were not that good and the ‘bad’ guys like Kauravas and Ravana clan were not that bad.
Gods like Rama , who readily sends his wife to the forest, because there was a doubt about her chastity,and the cunning Krishna with 16008 wives never deserved worship from me.

Curious about Hinduism, I read some selected verses from its holy grail, the Vedas.
Vedas probably were created between 1500 and 500 BC. They are a collections of hymns of Aryans, a clan of pastoralists. Rig Veda is considered the oldest. Vedic literature was preserved for hundreds of years by reciting and remembering orally before it was written in Sanskrit, the language of the Aryans.The Vedic hymns are mostly verses recited in praise of Aryan gods, which they called devas.At the sacrifices where Rig Veda hymns were recited, the devas were invited to come and sit around the sacrificial fire, to receive the hospitality of the Aryans who sacrificed animals in their honour.

Apart from verses praising gods, Rig Veda also has verses which are used to ensure the social inequality of the society.
Here is an example from Purushsooktham from Rigveda 10.90 about creation of humans and caste system.
11.1: What did the Purusha (i.e. Virat) hold within Him? How many parts were assigned in His Huge Form?
11.2: What was His Mouth? What was His Arms? What was His Thighs? And what was His Feet?
12.1: The Brahmanas were His Mouth, the Kshatriyas became His Arms,
12.2: The Vaishyas were His Thighs, and from His pair of Feet were born the Shudras.

I can’t see how some one can believe in such stupidities about origin of human beings. We can easily see through it as a vain attempt to justify and perpetuate cruel caste system.

Then I turned to Bhagavad Gita, the book some Hindus consider as The Holy book. There also I could not find anything inspiring. It is just a collection repetitive, incoherent and many a time self contradictory verses.

The whole Hindu system of beliefs looked very shady. I had no difficulty in realising that a religion which wholly supports the oppressive caste system and Patriarchy is a sham.

By the time I was 15, I started standing outside when our family visited temples. Still I used to take part in religious family rituals, so as not to offend the elders. When some one smeared sandal paste on my forehead, I used to clean it off as soon as possible!

My feeling initially was all those who believe in gods were weak minded and could not survive without god belief. So I never questioned their beliefs , though I never allowed them to impose it on me.
Later, in last few years , I realised that no one needs a god-belief , and such a belief is so prevalent because of childhood conditioning. Propagation of reason and rational thinking can help in de-conditioning. I realised it is ok sometimes to offend family elders so that one can drive your point of view of logic and reason forcefully.

Humans created god myths as an explanation for the things that they could not explain. Religions were created by the powerful to retain control on others using god myth. As more and more things are being explained by Science, the space for gods are shrinking fast. There may be still a lot of things which we cannot explain, but that does not mean we should invent an illogical answer of god for the gaps in our knowledge.

The way things are progressing, atheism may one day become the default position of all human beings. The question of why some one became an atheist will become irrelevant, and the more logical question will be for the theist to explain why some one believes in a myth without any evidence.

Greatest living legend on earth is no more

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Fortunately for the Human race he did not had to die to achieve his ideal.At 95 he was the greatest living legend on earth.When he finally breathed his last few hours ago, the World cant find words to thank him for his great achievement of uniting a race torn Nation. We can only remember with tremendous gratitude his profound humanism and ability to forgive and forge ahead.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 in the small village of Mvezo, on the Mbashe River, district of Umtata in Transkei, South Africa. His Father named him Rolihlahla, which means “pulling the branch of the tree”, or more colloquially “troublemaker.” The name Nelson was given by his first teacher in school.

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In 1934 Mandela matriculated from Clarkebury Missionary school. Four years later he graduated from Healdtown, a strict Methodist college, and left to pursue higher education at the University of Fort Hare (South Africa’s first university college for Black Africans). It was here he first met his lifelong friend and associate Oliver Tambo.
Both Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo were expelled from Fort Hare in 1940 for political activism. Briefly returning to Transkei, Mandela discovered that his guardian had arranged a marriage for him. He secretly fled from marriage, towards Johannesburg, where he obtained work as a night-watchman on a gold mine.There he met Walter Sisulu and became more active in politics.
Mandela completed his BA and started to study Law.In 1944 he married Evelyn Mase, a cousin of Walter Sisulu. He also began his political career in earnest, joining the African National Congress, ANC. Finding the existing leadership of the ANC to be “a dying order of pseudo-liberalism and conservatism, of appeasement and compromise.”, Mandela, along with Tambo, Sisulu, and a few others formed the African National Congress Youth League, ANCYL. In 1947 Mandela was elected as secretary of the ANCYL, and became a member of the Transvaal ANC executive.

In 1948 the National Party (NP) contested white only national elections with a new policy called apartheid (literally apartness) and narrowly won.. Mandela was “stunned and dismayed” at the NP’s victory.
As the White minority rulers passed more and more laws of repression the youth brigade of ANC had to act.
The existing ANC president was pushed out of office and someone more amenable to the ideals of the ANCYL was brought in as a replacement. Walter Sisulu proposed a ‘programme of action’, which was subsequently adopted by the ANC. Mandela was made president of the Youth League.

Nelson Mandela opened his law office in 1952, and a few months later teamed up with Tambo to create the first Black legal practice in South Africa. It was difficult for both Mandela and Tambo to find time for both their legal practice and their political aspirations. That year Mandela became president of the Transvaal ANC, but was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act – he was prohibited from holding office within the ANC, banned from attending ANC meetings, and restricted to the district around Johannesburg.
On 26 June,1955 The Congress of the People was convened in Kliptown near Soweto in which 3000 delegates adopted the Freedom Charter.
Mandela was restricted from attending meeting, but he drove down to Kliptown to be part of the Congress of the People; and by keeping to the shadows and the periphery of the crowd, Mandela watched as the Freedom Charter was adopted by all the groups involved. His increasing involvement in the anti-Apartheid struggle, however, caused problems for his marriage and in December that year Evelyn left him, citing irreconcilable differences.

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In December 1956 the entire leadership of ANC was arrested including Mandela.They were charged with “high treason and a countrywide conspiracy to use violence to overthrow the present government and replace it with a communist state.” The punishment for high treason was death. The Treason Trial dragged on, until Mandela and his 29 remaining co-accused were finally acquitted in March 1961. During the Treason Trial Nelson Mandela met and married his second wife, Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela.

The 1955 Congress of the People and its moderate stance against the policies of the Apartheid government eventually led to the younger, more radical members of the ANC to break away to form the Pan Africanist Congress, in 1959 under the leadership of Robert Sobukwe. The ANC and PAC became instant rivals, especially in the townships. This rivalry came to a head when the PAC rushed ahead of ANC plans to hold mass protests against the pass laws. On 21 March 1960 at least 69 were killed when the South African police opened fire at Sharpeville.The Sharpeville Massacre, as the event has become known, signalled the start of armed resistance in South Africa, and prompted worldwide condemnation of South Africa’s Apartheid policies.
Both the ANC and PAC responded in 1961 by setting up military wings. Nelson Mandela, in what was a radical departure from ANC policy, was instrumental in creating the ANC group: Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation, MK), and Mandela became the MK’s first commander. Both the ANC and PAC were banned by the South African government under the Unlawful Organisations Act in 1961. The MK, and the PAC’s Poqo, responded by commencing with campaigns of sabotage.

In 1962 Nelson Mandela was smuggled out of South Africa. He first attended and addressed the conference of African nationalist leaders, the Pan-African Freedom Movement, in Addis Ababa. From there he went to Algeria to undergo guerrilla training, and then flew to London to catch up with Oliver Tambo (and also to meet members of the British parliamentary opposition). On his return to South Africa, Mandela was arrested and sentenced to five years for “incitement and illegally leaving the country.
On 11 July 1963 a raid was undertaken on Lilieslief farm in Rivonia, near Johannesburg, which was being used by the MK as headquarters. The remaining leadership of the MK was arrested. Nelson Mandela was included at trial with those arrested at Lilieslief and charged with over 200 counts of “sabotage, preparing for guerrilla warfare in SA, and for preparing an armed invasion of SA”. Mandela was given life sentence and sent to Robben Island.

The quotation given in the beginning of this post was from Mandela’s speech in the court at the end of a 4 hour long statement.Here are few more excerpts from that statement given by Nelson Mandela in Pretoria Supreme Court on 20 April 1964.

“Africans want to be paid a living wage. Africans want to perform work which they are capable of doing, and not work which the Government declares them to be capable o Africans want to be allowed to live where they obtain work, and not be endorsed out of an area because they were not born there. Africans want to be allowed to own land in places where they work, and not to be obliged to live in rented houses which they can never call their own. Africans want to be part of the general population, and not confined to living in their own ghettoes. African men want to have their wives and children to live with them where they work, and not be forced into an unnatural existence in men’s hostels. African women want to be with their menfolk and not be left permanently widowed in the Reserves. Africans want to be allowed out after eleven o’clock at night and not to be confined to their rooms like little children. Africans want to be allowed to travel in their own country and to seek work where they want to and not where the Labour Bureau tells them to. Africans want a just share in the whole of South Africa; they want security and a stake in society.
Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy.
But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.
This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live.
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

In 1976 Nelson Mandela was approached with an offer by Jimmy Kruger, the Minister for Police serving under President BJ Vorster, to renounce the struggle and settle in the Transkei. Mandela refused.

In 1986 Nelson Mandela was taken to see the Minister of Justice, Kobie Coetzee, who requested once again that he ‘renounce violence’ in order to win his freedom.This was Mandela’s response.

“What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? What freedom am I being offered when I may be arrested on a pass offence? What freedom am I being offered to live my life as a family with my dear wife who remains in banishment in Brandfort? What freedom am I being offered when I must ask for permission to live in an urban area? What freedom am I being offered when I need a stamp in my pass to seek work? What freedom am I being offered when my very South African citizenship is not respected?
Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts.
I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free.
Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. I will return”.

Due to huge International pressure by trade boycott and increasing domestic political unrest the White Government was forced to release Nelson Mandela on 11 February 1990.
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When South Africa’s first multi-racial elections were held in April 1994, the ANC won a 62% majority.
On 10 May 1994 Nelson Mandela made his inaugural presidential speech from the Union Building, Pretoria

“We dedicate this day to all the heroes and heroines in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed in many ways and surrendered their lives so that we could be free.
Their dreams have become reality. Freedom is their reward.
We are both humbled and elevated by the honour and privilege that you, the people of South Africa, have bestowed on us, as the first President of a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist government.
We have at last, achieved our political emancipation. we pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender, and other discrimination. Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another… Let freedom reign. God Bless Africa!”

Mandela retired from active political life in June 1999 after his first term of office as President

Mandela has continued to play an active role in mediating conflicts around the world. He is also active in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and in many other charity organisation.

Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he has never answered racism with racism. His life has been an inspiration, in South Africa and throughout the world, to all who are oppressed and deprived, to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.

A modified repost of my old blog post.

An evening with the one and only Taslima

The other day we met the one and only Taslima Nasrin! Yes me and my wife were able to meet her and had a wonderful few hours with her.
She hardly knew us apart from a few interactions on social media, but welcomed us with warmth and love, and a sumptuous lunch!
We did not talk much about big subjects, like freedom of expression for writers, religion or feminism. Instead we talked about food, illnesses in her family, her own health, Minu her beloved cat…..day to day mundane topics. As we ate, talk was about how Bengalis eat, first concentrating on veggies, touching fish and meat last……all separate ….without mixing. She looked pleased when my wife reminded the scene in her book “French Lover” in which there was a comparison between eating habits of Europeans and Bengalis. She lamented that her cook in Delhi did not know how to make Bengali fish dishes, and she had to do it. She explained she was busy shopping last evening for preparing this lunch for us in the nearby Bengali market. She seemed to be happy meeting friends, cooking for them, anxious about her dishes, disappointed if we did not consume much, repeatedly asking whether the food has become too cold (as we were very late for lunch). She, I felt, yearned for an ordinary life of a human being which is being denied to her by intolerant goons.
photo
While waiting for us, she had put the picture of the dining table with all the dishes on twitter and she got a lot of retweets and positive mentions about how good a hostess she is.
“If I wrote a logical valid point against religion and patriarchy I get so many negative comments, but people it seems are happy seeing me as a hostess and cook” she said with a smile!
Yes, the World wants Taslimas who cook and host, not Taslimas who speak out the truth.
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Taslima Nasrin was a victim of plain speaking, of having courage enough to speak out the fact that the King is naked.
She spoke against intolerant misogynist religion and about the cruel oppression women face from Patriarchy. She wrote the truth about everything that happened in her life in plain and simple language. She wrote about childhood sexual abuse inside the four walls of her house, her love, the betrayal, syphilis, her work as a doctor and a writer, her marriages, her relationships with friends, both men and women, the sordid hypocrisy and double standards when it comes to judging a woman, awards and the abuses she faced from the society.
Islamists and politicians hungry for votes made her a hate figure, a grave threat to religion and family “values”. Fatwas for killing her came out and price was put on her head. She was pushed out of her country Bangladesh first, and then from the Left ruled Indian state of West Bengal. Her press conference in Hyderabad was disrupted by intolerant rowdies led by MLAs and was almost killed in that violence.
Now she is living under intense security at a safe house, with severe restrictions in her movement inside the country in this supposed to be liberal secular republic of India. She has not been granted Indian citizenship and is facing an uncertain future. She is welcome in Western Europe or USA, but hates to live anywhere else other than the Indian subcontinent. She is not an escapist or a coward, running away because of threats. She very well realise that her sphere of activity should be Indian subcontinent, the dark world of religious intolerance and oppressive patriarchy, than much more liberal West.
When we were about to leave, she was generous enough to give us several of her autographed books, and invited us to come for a longer stay.
As we finally bid good bye to Taslima and Minu, I felt ashamed of living in this World where religious/Communalist bigots have a free run to sow hate and incite violence, while a true Humanist Secularist is prevented from sowing the seeds of reason by being confined to the four walls of her house.

Taslima Nasrin’s official website

A report on the heinous attack on Taslima at Hyderabad

A report on hounding out of Taslima from CPM ruled West Bengal

Ban on anti Diabetes medicine Pioglitazone irrational

The recent decision taken by Indian Health Ministry to suspend the manufacture and sale of Pioglitazone, a medicine that is widely used to reduce blood sugar in Diabetes patients is a very short sighted move.
Pioglitzone belongs to a group of anti diabetic medicines called Glitazones and was approved in 1999 in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus. It reduces blood sugar primarily by reducing insulin resistance. Beyond the effects on glucose metabolism, pioglitazone has positive effects on fat metabolism and blood pressure too. This makes pioglitazone treatment effective beyond sugar control in Diabetics.
Like any other effective medicine, Pioglitazone sometimes can cause side effects in some patients. This includes weight gain, edema, worsening of cardiac failure, increased risk of fractures and slight increase in chance for Urinary bladder cancer.
In 2011 the news of slight increase in risk of bladder cancer resulted in safety review of the drug by both European Medicine Agency and FDA of USA. After reviewing all the studies of the drug, both EMA and FDA opined that benefit versus risk balance of Pioglitazone remains positive and allowed continued use of the medicine in selected patients. As of now there is no prohibition for prescribing this medicine in any of the countries of the World except France. More over Pioglitazone is prominently cited to be used as a second or third line drug in Diabetes in recent guidelines of scientific societies like American Diabetes Association, European Association for Study of Diabetes and International Diabetes Federation.
India has nearly 70 million people suffering from Diabetes. A vast majority of them are from economically weaker sections of the society. As most of Indian Diabetic patients are not covered by health insurances or Government Health schemes, they have to shell out large sums of money from their pockets for health care.
Ever since its launch in 1999, Pioglitazone has proved to be a very effective and cheap medicine for reducing blood sugar.
Unfortunately in a surprising move the Government of India in a Gazette notification dated 18th June, 2013, has suspended with immediate effect, the sale and manufacture of all formulations containing Pioglitazone.
No Scientific society in India has recommended such a measure. A recent review article in Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism said:
“Clearly more studies are needed, probably focused on the Indian population. It is also important that physicians recognize the early signs and symptoms of cancer including bladder cancer. At the same time, it is important to recognize the benefits of pioglitazone and use it judiciously in appropriate patients who would benefit from the use of this drug”
Instead of making the drug available with caution and black box warnings like the European Union and USA, Indian Government has suddenly suspended the use of an important and very beneficial drug. Absence of Pioglitazone as a treatment option in Diabetes will severely affect sugar control in a large section of patients. More and more people may have to switch to logistically difficult and costly therapies like Insulin or Gliptins.
Let us hope that a sustained pressure on Government from medical scientific societies, patient groups and Civil society may ensure that this useful medicine will remain in armamentarium of clinicians.

Links

http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2012/04/17/dc12-0413

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193778/

http://www.ema.europa.eu/ema/index.jsp?curl=pages/news_and_events/news/2011/10/news_detail_001368.jsp&mid=WC0b01ac058004d5c1

http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm266555.htm

A fascinating peep into the science of life

creation covers

The other day while visiting the newest and supposed to be the biggest mall of my State, we visited the book shop. At the ‘New Arrival’ section I saw a book named “Creation- the Origin of Life/ Future of Life” (Penguin, 2013). First I thought it was by an author who believed in the myth of god creating universe. Then I realized that Adam Rutherford, the author is a Geneticist and an editor of the prestigious journal ‘Nature’ and couldn’t resist buying that book. I finished that book in a week and now couldn’t resist telling the World about it!

It is actually a two-in-one book which can be read from either side. One half is titled “Creation- the Origin of Life” and talk about history of life. The other half is titled “Creation- the Future of Life” and tells about future of Science, especially Synthetic Biology.

It is one of the most easily readable books on Science. The language is simple and you will forget the fact that the book is going deep into Biology and Biochemistry.

 Origin of Life

In this half of the book we realize the importance of the work of stalwarts like Luewenhoek, Schwann, Scheldein, Remak and Virchow in establishing the Cell Theory. Then we hear about Darwin’s master piece of ‘Natural Selection’ and Mendel’s law of inheritance. Unit of inheritance was later identified as the DNA and how it replicates became known.

Rutherford writes:
“Those three aspects of Biology- cells only from existing cells, DNA changing through imperfect copying, and modified descent of a species as a result- logically unveil a single line of ancestry that inevitably leads back to a single point in one deep, deep past…….In every cell is a perfect unbroken chain that stretches inevitably back to the origin of life. That lineage irresistibly leads to one single entity, which we call the “Last Universal Common Ancestor” or LUCA.

How and where LUCA came into being?

We don’t know it yet, but we are close to finding it than never before.  Scientists are fairly convinced that life started as an RNA World, before DNA, a much better Data storage device came into being. Later there was a long period, may be a couple of billion years, when life did not go beyond single cell organisms (bacteria & archaea). Then probably an amazing thing happened. An archaea swallowed a bacteria and complex multi-cellular organisms evolved. The mitochondria of eukaryotes very much resemble bacteria with its own circular strings of DNA.

Through this book we learn a novel definition of life.

Rutherford says: “Life is a process that stops your molecule from simply decaying into more stable forms. Life has evolved to extract energy from the surroundings and use it to maintain our vital information against the universal slide towards equilibrium by swapping and pumping protons from one side of a membrane to another inside a cell’s innards”.

Where did Chemistry turned into Biochemistry? Scientists are now zeroing on newly discovered under the sea alkaline vents producing seabed hydrothermal field. The vents are brimming with gases, eager to react with sea water. The reactions between rocks and the sea provide natural proton gradient which can produce ATP, the modern cell’s energy currency.

Many Scientists are working on this and results are yet to come, and we may need further experiments, but we now realize that “the conditions of infant Earth, tested in modern labs, render self-creation unavoidable”.

The writer concludes the section of Origin of Life like this:

“As we continue to explore the world of the cell, we are on the brink of seeing the start of this grand journey of life on earth. And such humble beginnings. Every muscle twitch, every breath, every thought, emotion and sensation you ever had, started its journey in a microscopic chamber at the bottom of the sea, four million years ago”.

Future of Life

The other half of the book is about future of Life. It deals mainly with Genetic Engineering and the emerging technology of Synthetic Biology.

It starts with the story of Freckles, a young goat in whom scientists have introduced a portion of DNA of spider. This was done in an attempt to get spider silk, which is tougher than any man-made fibre. It is immunologically inert and has great potential in ligament repair in medicine.

Biology is messy. Living things have evolved over millions of years and carry a complex genetic network. Synthetic Biology tries to avoid the mess by creating organisms with simple, clear circuits and programs built not for survival, but for a specific purpose.

The author then goes on to illustrate few examples of new experiments in synthetic biology.

Sniper circuits are genes which can identify and kill cancer cells. When introduced into the body via a virus, it kills only the cancer cells, leaving alone the healthy cells, just like a sniper, unlike the carpet bombing of chemotherapy and radiation.

Scientists have now breached the barrier of biology and electronics with devices like a clock in bacteria E coli and a genetically made flip-flop switch.

Is genetic engineering and synthetic biology ethical?

Rutherford explains that we humans have been doing similar things for centuries. We have been deliberately choosing characteristics attractive to us in animals and plants to breed. That is called farming. Now we are doing the same thing, only that technology has changed. Scientists who created Freckles can be called the most advanced farmers on Earth.

He asserts that discussions about synthetic biology and genetic modifications should be in public domain, and with the public.

Rutherford concludes like this:

“Calls from opponents of genetic modifications and synthetic biology for bans are unrealistic and destructive. They are designed to foment fear from an ideological position, and to enrage rather than engage….

There are legitimate and serious concerns in many of the technologies described in these pages, but they demand rational, open and informed discussions…

We are engineering life forms to build fuels, drugs, treatments, the tools to explore our Universe and boundless new creations that can help our world and our tenure in it. Our responsibility is not to curtail that knowledge but use it to better ourselves and our living planet”.

This book is indeed a fascinating peep into the science behind origin and future of life.

God’s grace, a theist way of saying I am lucky!

When they achieve some thing, Theists say “by god’s grace”.

Is it not strange that Theists praise the god when things go their way, but do not blame him, but just curse their ill luck when they are the victim? Or are they actually pointing out to the luck they had by praising god? So god=luck?
Do those theists who kill & rape also say “by god’s grace”?
What about their victims? Should they believe that God is angry with them?
#religion #hypocrisy