Are You Charlie?

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This post is basically for everyone across the globe who lives in a secular nation or any nation that is a blend of a variety of religions and cultures.
There are some lessons we need to learn from the Charlie Hebdot incident and the most substantial of all those is, I believe, conditioning the society to tolerate. Above everything else, above the need to eradicate the Jihadis and the extremists, what we need is a society that can tolerate an individual’s freedom of expression. It is one thing to say this but in deed, it is smothered in a million ways by a million people. How, I will tell you through this example.
In India, which is a secular nation with a Hindu majority, this tolerance to an individual’s freedom of expression is taken and interpreted in a context that is convinient for the politicians and their vote banks. There is a little pesky thing called ‘hurt sentiments’ which has seen an enormous rise in India in the recent years. Anything like a movie or a painting or a speech, anything that is displayed publicly on a general social platform that seems poignant and pointy to a particular religious group immediately ‘hurts their sentiments’. Then we often have funny situations where Hindus protesting for their hurt sentiments is called “an attack on the freedom of expression of an individual” but if the minorities do the same, it is always considered to have genuinely hurt their sentiments.  I am a Hindu but I am not supporting the Hindus’ protests against someone hurting their sentiments in anyway because glorifying the picture of things seen through relgious points of views is the gateway to extremism which in turn is a gateway to terrorism. What I’m saying is here in India, we are people who believe that a religion in majority should be kept under strict surveillance of the government and if they protest because their sentiments are hurt, they should be constantly reminded of the freedom of expression of others whereas if the minorities protest for the same reason,  it is considered legitimate because they’re the minority and the freedom of expression doesn’t hold any importance in such cases. I am okay and in fact satisfied with the former part.  What I am not okay with is the latter part where we readily accept the minorities’ demands to ban things that hurt their sentiments overlooking the liberty of expression of an individual. That’s the misinterpretation of tolerance and freedom of speech I’m talking about.
Then we have a caste among the Hindus called the Dalits who cringe about every single thing that looks like a problem to them. Since the Dalits are a part of the minority,  the government seems to caress them like they’re a child and that is where they begin to become the problem child.
The Dalits have a problem with everything that the non-Dalits do. Calling a Dalit a Dalit is a crime by law because ‘it hurts their sentiments’. If you ban a bad government officer and he is a non-Dalit, the good government is doing a good job. But if that bloke is a Dalit, “you are doing this deliberately to insult us and to isolate us from the society. This is a conspiracy.”
This way,  the Indian minorities are not just thwarting an individual’s freedom of expression,  they’re also trying to bend the government and the system as a whole to their frame of convenience. And all this because they have the golden key to sympathy: “we are Dalits.”
If this goes on, it will one day open the gates to another incident like Charlie Hebdot. Only, it won’t be the Islamic extremists doing it in France because of a pencil sketch. It might happen at the hands of any religious minority in any secular nation because “you hurt our sentiments.” Probably in India.
The lesson to be learnt from Charlie Hebdot is therefore to program the society in such a manner that no religion or caste, no ethnic groups, and no races would have a problem with someone trying to say something even if it’s going to prick them a little. We all need to learn to be tolerant. And this isn’t just for India. As I said in the very beginning, it is basically for all the people from all the nations in the world that harbor a blend of cultures and religions within themselves.
So if you have already tweeted or written a facebook post saying “I am Charlie”, ask yourself if you can tolerate things expressed about your community and your people regardless of the fact whether it pricks you or not and if your answer is a ‘yes’, you are Charlie.

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The Branding of Israel

A terrified girl eating a loaf of bread in the rubble of her house would be a heart-wrenching sight. So would be an injured toddler, or a father with his son in the midst of fallen buildings and so would be the countless other photos of these and such people who are the residents of the Gaza Strip.
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Look around on the internet and you’ll find myriad photos and news reports of people from the Gaza Strip before you blink twice. All of these stories are touching and will leave you doubting the existence of humanity. It is hard to believe that some people can do such things to other people and it’s harder to digest that it won’t stop for a long time to come. Reading about collapsed schools and therefore abandoned by the kids, and UNICEF workers trying to put them together again makes you pause for a moment and feel pity for the whole situation. Reading about kids who have lost their parents in fractions of seconds makes you feel terrible. Look around on the internet and you’ll probably see more than I have been seeing since a long time. It will break your heart, scratch your conscience and lead you to a question – Who is doing all this? And why? Then, if you look around just a little more, you’ll find your answers – Israel is doing all this for a land that belongs to them. Then the photos will break your heart again and you’ll eventually wonder what right does Israel have to destroy the lives of these many people over a petty land dispute?
And if your mind successfully brings you to ask this question to yourself or to anyone else, or on a social networking site, you will have been a victim of the insidious branding of Israel which is an outcome of all the Gaza Strip news in the world put together.
The debate over who is right and who is wrong is altogether a different story. The choice of taking sides with one of the two conflicting nations is also a matter of your own beliefs, but the prejudice against Israel on the basis of the touching Gaza Strip coverage would be, I firmly believe, an error of judgment. When one person is hapless and another is more hapless, you tend to quickly compare both of them and call the former guy a lucky bloke. On similar grounds, not calling Israel a nation in a wrong position and at the same time, showcasing the Palestinians in wretched conditions, the media from around the globe seems to be unknowingly sending out a message that Israel is after all, despicable. And that certainly isn’t the case. I just want all of you to understand that a war tears apart everyone engaged in it and this time, it’s no different. You can take sides, you can sympathize with whoever you find right and you can defend your opinions, but before going there, kill that prejudice against Israel.