Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Is Arundhati Roy Guilty of Sedition?

In law, sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws. Seditious words in writing are seditious libel. A seditionist is one who engages in or promotes the interests of sedition. (From Wikipedia).

Let me confess, I am a fan of Arundhati Roy, but I wish to express my unbiased views on her writings and statements. Arundhati Roy's claim to fame and name was initially derived from her excellent fiction book " The God of small things". From an unknown entity, she became an intellectual and her fine book became best-seller and earned her fame and money beyond her wildest imagination. At this point, it was easy for her to use her skills to write more fiction and continue making money and live a comfortable life, maybe become part of the glitterati and page 3 society. She could choose to ignore her surroundings and conscience and like most of us lead a selfish self centered existence. She chose otherwise and used her undoubted skills and freedom of expression to become the voice of those who had and have the least stake in our far from perfect democracy. Far from being an arm chair critic, all the causes she has espoused and supported have been done after actually experiencing and interacting with the poorest and the most victimized sections of society. Her writings have been forthright, fearless and come from a deep inner conviction which may sometimes reflect some bias against the state and establishment, but are by no means deliberate attempts to provoke or incite disaffection (insurrection) against the state.
Taking her present statement on the status of Kashmir valley as a disputed territory and not being an integral part of India, there are a large number of people including the democratically elected CM of Jammu and Kashmir who have challenged or contested the act of accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir signed by Maharaja Hari Singh without the consent of his people. Besides, although technically and legally India had entered the valley only after the signing of the Instrument of accession, both India and Pakistan had agreed to allow plebiscite and allow the people of Kashmir to decide their fate and future. A secular democratic state had to prove that a Muslim majority state can be a part of India, while theocratic, fundamentalist, Islamist Pakistan state could not explain its reason to exist by allowing that to happen. India has held on to Kashmir since 1948, but the price paid in terms of concessions, special status, military occupancy, tragic loss of life has been huge. We may legally own Kashmir but the people of Kashmir are not wholeheartedly and willingly integrated with India. Does stating this amount to sedition? Do the people of the valley require Arundhati Roy to revolt or are our armed forces and elected state and central governments by their acts of omission and commission providing enough reason to revolt. I do not deny that the role of ISI and Pakistan is not responsible for this insurrection, but we must point the mirror and reflect on our mistakes. Persons like Arundhati Roy, are showing the people the ugly face of our imperfect democracy and while one may say that the fact she is allowed to do so is a triumph of the very democracy she condemns, by jailing her on charges of sedition, we will lose every bit of our claim to be a secular, socialist democratic state.
Communal corrupt leaders and mass murderers roam around freely spewing venom and hatred in the name of freedom, a state sold to the interests of corporate India displaces and kills its own citizens, all these things are perfectly all right and get rewarded by the media and the voters, but Arundhati Roy's statements and essays on behalf of the people displaced in the Narmada valley, the tribals in the Naxal regions, opposition to nuclear deal, criticism of the open communal policies of the right wing parties are all undemocratic and unpatriotic acts.
I urge all of you to reflect and follow the inner voice of your conscience before condemning and labeling Arundhati Roy as Guilty.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I just saw this movie and and I must say that I have never seen a movie which is so entertaining and at the same time such a brutally hard hitting story. The characters in the movie are so authentic that it is hard to believe that they are actually acting. The issues of farmers suicide, rural indebtedness, caste interplay, women empowerment, center-state relationships, cynical power playing politicians, seeds monopoly, print vs visual media, English vs Hindi media have all been dealt with in this movie. And if this list makes you think you are watching a documentary film, one is mistaken, as this movie is a thoroughly entertaining movie which makes you laugh when you watch it but cry bitterly for your country when one analyzes the film. There are many dialogues which are memorable. The dialogue between Nathu and his brother who while declaring his intentions of dying for his land, cleverly convinces Nathu about the greater profitability of his death to the family. Also the debate of the rural journalist with the media's female urban darling on seeing the whole story and creating positive change through journalism. These are just two examples from among the many incidents portrayed in peepli live.

Peepli live is a peoples movie,and an attempt to focus on the other India in a manner which can simply be described entertaining but can also be seen as a vivid, vibrant picture of rural India or Bharat.

I congratulate its makers and wish the youth see this movie in large numbers

Vispi Jokhi

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The cost of an Indian life

Twenty-six years ago the people of Bhopal were exposed to a lethal gas in one of the world's worst industrial accident. But, was it an accident? The answer is contrary to popular perception a resounding "No". Because we as a nation have rulers who have devalued our lives to such an extent that we have not one but many Bhopals which have occurred in the past, which occur daily and will continue to do so in the future and we will not even notice or see and raise even a whimper of protest any of these events.

To just list a few examples I would like to mention more than a lakh suicides by farmers all over the country, sub-saharan levels of hunger poverty and destitution, high infant and maternal mortality due to lack of sanitation and clean drinking water and primary health care facilities, callous displacement of tribals and the poor in the name of large dams, factories, mines, SEZ's, factories, ports. I can go on and on. But is it only the Government who needs to be blamed? Are we all not guilty with our apathy and complicit acceptance of these policies of successive governments? Our obsession with GDP, sensex driven growth has led to wanton destruction of the environment and massive unrest among the poor and dispossessed masses of India. Besides the above issues, India loses so many human lives to natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, drought and such other phenomenon. All this was accepted as our karma when we were ruled by the Englishmen, but in 1947 our rulers gave us a constitution which pronounced that we became a sovereign socialistic secular republic where all citizens are equal before the law.

Our "chalta hain " attitude and disregard for rule of law and poor civic sense are responsible for state of our nation today. We need to turn the mirror to our own faces and correct ourselves. Our non-caring so long as the issue is not directly related to us is completely wrong as we must realize that in the welfare of all lies our own welfare. Discipline, civic sense, compassion for our poor unseen brethren, moderation in all aspects of life are the stepping stones to reversing the reasons for the Bhopals. We must put a value to the life of every Indian and not allow people to become mere statistics. Accountability, rule of law and equality before law must be the corner stones of the future path of our nation.

Bhopal is a mere symptom of a deep rooted disease which needs to be tackled by systemic change and course correction in favor of a sustainable economic growth pattern based on human happiness sound ecological principles. I do not see any attempt to do this in all the sound and fury of the outrage which the Bhopal verdict has elicited among the middle class.

Dr. Vispi Jokhi

Monday, May 17, 2010

India T20 Failure

In the context of the failure of the Indian team to do well in the T20 format, a lot has been written and I do not want to be repetitive. All teams and countries in all sports have a basic way of playing and certain in born traits and the Indian team is not an exception to this. The T20 format started a few years ago and an unfancied young team under the fresh captaincy of a new leader won the inaugural tournament. They played fearless, uninhibited cricket and were not under any pressure to perform. In those days T20 cricket was a simple slogging affair and the bold fearless approach was ideal. The Indian and Pakistani teams were full of talented wristy players who could play innovative shots and on flat pitches where the ball came on to the bat we could hit through the line and make runs. The IPL tournaments played on the flat slow pitches of India with shortened boundaries on most grounds and heavy wooded bats lulled our players into a feeling of near invincibility, although 10 months back in England our shortcomings were exposed. My point is that no amount of training can change the basic nature of our players and their abilities. Our inability to play short-pitched stuff in a game where evading these deliveries cannot be an option is as natural as the inability of South African players to score runs of spinners. Indians are not natural athletes and brilliant fielding is an effort rather than a natural off shoot of an athletic body. To do well in these situations we needed exceptional players who can bear the chin music and have an effective answer to it on a consistent basis. I fear such players are just not there in the present team or in the missing reserves or injured players. Tendulkar and Sehwag up the order were needed to counter the 140+ kmph. barrage dished out to our team on the fast pitches of Barbados. Besides, I wonder where has our bowling gone wrong? Zaheer, Munaf, Irfan, Ishant and a few more came with 140+ pace and have all lost pace and wicket taking abilities. Suddenly, the cupboard is bare. Well let us become detached from our team as they will play like India plays, come what may. One day, brilliant and the next day they are a bunch of novices. But, for the sake of Sachin Tendulkar I hope that we win the 50 over format world cup and repay him for all that he has done for India and Indian cricket.
Vispi Jokhi

Monday, February 01, 2010

Purpose of Existence

Everyday we get up in the morning anxious to begin our day in time, to make sure we complete the tasks which we set ourselves and at the same time create some space for ourselves for personal needs. As soon as the alarm bell rings depending on the adequacy or lack of sleep, more often the latter we get up refreshed and raring to g or tired hoping to catch a few extra winks. Snooze!!! get up Snooze! get up is the sequence till there is no choice left. Then after basic needs, a few minutes of introspection meditation and yoga the race begins, and ends after all the daily duties, rounds, clinics, surgeries, opd's family chores, reading, browsing etc etc etc.

The question is "Is this the purpose of existence?" The answer to this is an obvious and resounding "No". But then there is no clear answer to the next question "What is the purpose of existence?"
I wish to attempt an answer to this question, fully knowing that the answer I give today may not be my final answer for all times to come. I live in this world, to contribute to it and make it a better place than before. When I pause to think of this, I feel that the biggest error in the statement is that word "I" as in my identity as Dr. Vispi Jokhi a human being with a name and some fame conferred on me by my relationships with my immediate family, kin, friends, countrymen and fellow earth dwellers. All these are illusory and temporary attributes which exist while I live in a finite state. While the world with its objects of gratification pull me down by association with these sense objects something within me tells me to aspire for a different goal. It tells me to swim against the tide so that I discover the purpose of my existence. So is my aim to make the world a better place a false aim? It is false as long as I think of the egocentric "I", but when I subsume that I into the divine Self and make myself an instrument in the hands of the divine Lord, my aim to improve the world becomes a true purpose of existence.
Therefore, in all humility I submit that the main purpose of my existence is to unshackle myself from the clutches of relationships and sense objects and yoke myself to the universal divine consciousness call it by any name. But this is not achievable by me instantaneously, but is a step wise process. For this I need to introspect daily and remind myself that I am not the finite Dr. Vispi Jokhi but I am one with the universal consciousness consisting of nature and all of God's creation inanimate and animate. Therefore, I need to respect all of God's creation and live in harmony and moderation, using only what I need. All my actions must be ethical and aimed towards this divine purpose. Like all things in nature living for the whole I must live and serve others at all times. My smallest of efforts in this direction are like the efforts of a sculptor little by little to shape the stone that I am today and discover the divinity within me.
A practical guide for realizing this aim of existence is provided by the Eight point programme of Eknath Easwaran. Meditate daily and remind yourself of your oneness with divine consciousness, chant a man tram to remind me to maintain equanimity at all times, slow down to reflect and pause in this fast life and establish connection with the divine, do one thing at a time with single pointed attention, control the senses and not allow them to pull you on the downward spiral, live in harmony with nature by living and serving others, read the divine scriptures and follow them truly and lastly keep the company of fellow divine souls to help all of us to discover the one universal purpose of existence.

Dr. Vispi Jokhi