Indians (understandably) don’t want gay rights

June 29, 2009

Indian religious leaders object to the legalization of homosexuality, according to this report in the CNN. And quite understandably so.

This is one of those instances where the law is trying to get ahead of society and its mores. Even in the US where society has presumably got used to its gays, the laws lag behind. A homosexual can still be barred in the US from joining the military if his leanings are made known.

In India, the society is still conservative and only slowly coming to terms with some loosening of norms in opposite-sex relationships. You don’t tear a society apart by forcing changes on it at a far more rapid pace than it can cope. The result will be anomie, loss of values, and general uprootedness.

To be sure a case can be made that gays have a right to relationships, provided they are consensual. On these terms, gay relationships do not encroach on others rights.

Instead of changing the law, which is bound to be objected to by religious and social leaders, gays could arrive at a tacit agreement with the authorities that there will not be any prosecution simply because two persons have a gay relationship.

In return gays will have to also tacitly promise moderation on a number of fronts. No public displays of affections, and no public solicitation even if it is only holding someone’s hands longer than you need to, or ogling someone through kajal laden eyes. I mention these two, because of lot of folks have complained of being harassed by such solicitations at public places, stores, and community gatherings.

Come on you folks ! We can try to cope. So should you. All a step at a time.


“Sorry” is not in George Bush’s lexicon

December 5, 2007

After the joint report of US intelligence agencies reported that Iran had stopped its nuclear program in 2003, the most appropriate approach for US President George Bush would have been to say “ Sorry, but we goofed”.

If he wanted to pass the buck, Bush could have of course blamed the 2005 intelligence report that said that Iran’s leaders were working tirelessly to acquire a nuclear bomb.

Instead, the US President on Tuesday warned that Iran was still a threat – referring to Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which the Middle East country claims is for its civilian program. All this is reminiscent of the hysteria the Bush administration successfully whipped up about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) ahead of the US invasion of Iraq.

This time over it may not be so easy, unless the US totally disregards public opinion both within the country and abroad. There are a number of inconsistencies in Bush’s stand.

Why should the community of nations, led by the US and its allies, impose sanctions on Iran if it is now believed that Iran is enriching uranium for its civilian programs ? How does this approach of the US and its allies sit with its bonhomie with Pakistan’s generals, who have lots of nuclear bombs, which may be used against Pakistan’s enemies like India, and are in far greater risk of falling into terrorist hands ?

This “ my buddy can do no wrong” approach with Pakistan flies in the face of common sense, and only goes to show that the US is harassing Iran, and trying to trigger a war there, because Iran will not toe the US line.

As the US uses this one-sided policy to expand its sphere of influence, and threaten nations that don’t toe its line, countries around the world are unabashedly backing its policies on Iran, as they did earlier in Iraq. Iran is the menace – that is the agreed point of view – though there have only been differences on how to tackle a country that has been prejudged a “menace”.

To be sure, Iran’s human rights record is abominable, but so is the record of many countries the US will not go to war with, and still continues to do business with, like China, like Pakistan. So frankly, what is the justification now to harass Iran with sanctions, and even military action ?

After WMDs, Bush is now talking about WW III

In Pakistan, elections under martial law !

November 11, 2007

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today at a press conference showed the US and the rest of the world that in Pakistani politics you can have your cake and eat it too.

Musharraf pledged elections in January, though the elections will be likely held while the state of emergency is still on, according to this report in CNN.

What that means, despite Musharraf’s pledge of having international observers, is that Musharraf and the army will ensure that only the pliant will get elected to the new parliament.

Musharraf and the army already control the Supreme Court and the Election Commission. Elections and parliamentary legitimacy is all he needs to complete this sordid charade.

The US and some European countries have been urging Musharraf to move towards democracy, but Musharraf demonstrated at the press conference on Sunday that he sets the agenda in Pakistan.

As US officials have often admitted, they need Musharraf and the Pakistani army in the war against terror, particularly as key terrorists are believed to be holed out in the country’s North-Western Frontier province.

Musharraf is playing that card against the US and Europe. He is well aware that the US will not try to upset a cozy relationship that it needs with the Pakistani army.

Where does that leave Benazir Bhutto ? Her Western sophistication and British education appeals to the West, but unlike Musharraf she does not control the army. In her craze to come to power, Bhutto will in the event, make some vociferous protests for the galleries, and then perhaps settle for a deal with the generals.

That leaves the small constituency of lawyers as the only consistent opposition to Musharraf and army rule. They are a strong moral force, but cannot for long counter the repression by the police and the army.

As the army battles its own people, the war against terror moves to the back-burner. Musharraf is in no hurry to flush out the terrorists. They are his trump card against US pressure.

The break down of civil society and political institutions may however help the jihadis. As the country’s civil society finds itself more distressed and impotent, the moderates may lose ideological leadership to the jihadis.

US support to Pakistan unaffected after martial law

November 4, 2007

US Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, said the emergency declaration in Pakistan “does not impact our military support of Pakistan” or its efforts in the war on terror, according to a report from the Associated Press.

As reported earlier in this blog, the US for all its rhetoric about support for democracy worldwide, will have no choice but to go along with President Pervez Musharraf, hoping to get the Pakistan army to support a US bid to flush out Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists from the country’s North-West Frontier province.

That was Musharraf’s calculation when he went ahead and declared martial law in Pakistan despite earlier protests from the US. That will also perhaps ensure that Musharraf’s army will put hunting the terrorists as the last item on his army’s agenda.

The terrorists are a prize catch that Musharraf can cynically dangle before the US every time the Americans start interfering in his affairs at home.

It is a big mistake for the US to support Musharraf’s government. It will give a boost to anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. It will also make larger sections of Pakistan society potential recruits to Al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism.

As for the Pakistanis, in the past Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister, thought the US would help her bring back democracy and her back to power in Pakistan. In the interests of the country, Bhutto has to for a while put on hold her personal ambitions, and work for a broad coalition with other democratic movements in Pakistan, including that of another former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistani politicians have to put their heads together to save civil society and democracy in Pakistan. Don’t expect the US to do it for you. They have been very comfortable dealing with dictators in the past in Pakistan, Iran, and Cuba, if their own interests are seen as being served.

Related articles:

US impotent before “buddy” Musharraf

US impotent before “buddy” Musharraf

November 3, 2007

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has gone ahead and declared a state of emergency on Saturday in Pakistan. Troops have surrounded the country’s Supreme Court building and physically removed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry who was earlier in the day expelled from the job. The other justices of the court are expected to be asked to take a new oath in favor of the President.

The proclamation of emergency rule, which according to some analysts is closer to martial law with the army in full control, should come as an embarrassment to the US which views Pakistan as a close ally in its war against terror.

The declaration also came in direct defiance of warnings by top American officials, reports the New York Times. The senior American military commander in the Middle East, Admiral William J. Fallon, told General Musharraf and his top generals in a meeting in Islamabad on Friday that emergency rule would jeopardize the extensive American financial support for the Pakistani military, according to the report

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has personally intervened twice in the past four months to try to keep General Musharraf from imposing emergency rule, including telephoning him at 2 a.m. Pakistani time in August. Today, while traveling to Turkey for an Iraq security conference, she reinforced the message, saying, “I think it would be quite obvious that the United States wouldn’t be supportive of extra-constitutional means,” New York Times reports.

Don’t expect Musharraf however to reverse martial law under US pressure. For one, US pressure matters little to the President who has the support of the Pakistani army which sees Musharraf as the best way to perpetuate its control. Apart from some few violent protests, the country will settle down to another long spell of martial law.

Which should suit the US well. Although it advocates democracy in its demagoguery, and will likely issue protests, as required by protocol, at the new turn of events in Pakistan, don’t expect US sanctions on Pakistan or its military.

The US at this point needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs the US, and Musharraf factored that into his calculations. The epicenter of the war against terror is Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, where Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders are believed to be hiding. So the military in Pakistan will continue to demand more arms from the US and will get them, even if some of those arms are turned against the Pakistani people.

The US has also in the past been quite comfortable dealing with Pakistani military dictators, much to the chagrin of politicians in democratic India who believed that the two democracies should be naturally allied.

This time after a few protests for the galleries, Musharraf and the US will be back to business soon.

That however will be a big mistake for the US to make. The alienation of civil society in Pakistan under Musharraf’s rule, which is likely to get exacerbated under martial law, will only play into the hands of the Muslim fundamentalists who will now start actively recruiting among disaffected Pakistani youth. Martial law in Pakistan will only accelerate the “Talibanization” of Pakistan’s civil society.

At that point, Musharraf may once again need the US very badly. Like the Shah of Iran he will need some place to escape to. It is unfortunate that the US never learns from its past mistakes.

Related articles:

US impotent before “buddy” Musharraf”

US support to Pakistan unaffected after martial law

The religious right should target the capitalist system rather than gays

November 1, 2007

America’s religious right is emotionally and culturally lost. As it sees its traditional mores and culture giving way to a new liberal culture that pays little attention to religious issues, it is trying to reverse the change, for example, by influencing the country’s choice for President.

It is also spawning a whole lot of groups on the lunatic fringe, people like the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas who picketed the funerals of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Church claims God is punishing the U.S. because of its tolerance for gays, according to this report in CNN.

America and a lot of other cultures and countries have promoted unbridled capitalism and consumerism, often at the expense of traditional value systems. The breakdown of traditional culture and value systems is in a sense part of the grand design of capitalism to stress on integrated and homogenous markets for which it is more efficient to produce and more efficient to distribute. McDonald’s and its attempts at global homogenization has been the symbol of this attempt to neutralize cultural and yes religious differences in the interests of the markets.

This neutralization of local culture is being resisted in many countries, and often takes the form of anti-American sentiment. In America too, the religious right is now reacting to attempts of capitalist society to homogenize and control tastes, values and lifestyles. You may ask what do lifestyles and culture have to do with religion ? In the past, they have all moved together with religion, culture, and lifestyles influencing one another. You can’t neutralize or modify one, without pulling down the entire superstructure.

The religious right have made homosexuality and abortion rights their key issues. But they have conveniently avoided taking on the real cause of their problems – the breakdown of culture, religion, and values by mass consumerism, and the consequent anomie.

The fringes of the religious right are the real problem, as they are lunatic attempts to cope with the social and cultural anomie beget by modern consumerist society.

The religious right, which has typically voted Republican and in favor of the glorification of the current capitalist value system, has in a sense contributed to the social and cultural anomie in American society. They cannot blame homosexuals and abortionists for America’s problems. The devil is in the system – the capitalist system, and the value system it promotes to perpetuate its existence.

The religious right will probably look at these issues through their traditional demonology. They will probably say, “Hey, here is another self-serving homosexual”. I am not a homosexual. I believe that the religious right should put aside its witch-hunting of homosexuals and go after the big Satan – the system itself of which they are both the supporters and the victims.

Related article:

God is dead, and I am not feeling too well myself

In Afghanistan no end in sight…..

October 25, 2007

British prime minister Gordon Brown is calling on the international community to share the burden of the military campaign in Afghanistan, according to a report in the BBC.

“We cannot allow the Taleban to be back in control of such an important country. And the work that has been done in the last six years to build a democracy in Afghanistan is an important bulwark against terrorism everywhere in the world,” Brown said, during a visit to Downing Street by Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

Six years after the US and UK invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban regime that was providing sanctuary to the Al Qaeda, including its leader, Osama Bin Laden, the war in Afghanistan is far from over. The Taliban is having a revival of sorts, and the country has emerged as a major dealer of opium as drug cartels induce poor farmers, struggling for a livelihood, to take up illegal poppy cultivation. Some NATO countries have also deployed troops in the country.

The invasion of Afghanistan in October, 2001 is generally regarded as a military intervention by the US and the UK that was morally justified. After the attacks by terrorists on the US on September 11, 2001, the attack on Afghanistan was seen as a collective act of self-defense, and backed by appropriate resolutions of the UN.

Sending soldiers and ordnance to Afghanistan can only be one part of an overall program to weed out the Taliban, and extend the influence of Karzai outside Kabul. Development funds have to reach the people and generate employment and long-term means of livelihood. However, rampant corruption, local war lords, and renewed fighting with the Taliban have proven to be a major obstacle in rehabilitating the masses of the country.