petervas

The tyranny of misplaced christian victimhood

In Political, Religion on April 1, 2015 at 9:08 pm

India is going through major socio-economic-political flux and I am delighted to see it all unfold. Like you, I have waited for a very long time for this day. Like you, I think of myself as an Indian first. My christian faith opens another charming window to view this world from. Lately I find myself attracted to the political dimension of our respective faiths. It gets ugly when we mark ourselves with a faith-based identifier. It gets uglier when we mark our territorial jungle trees with squirts of righteous pride. Instead of a faith based inclusion, we now face-off with a faith-based exclusion. In direct contradiction to the spiritual dimension stands an ugly political dimension of our respective faiths.

Unlike the west, Indian democracy has a unique blend of secularism. Instead of a constitutional separation between state and religion, we have a kludgy joint-family with resident cousins from all faiths. The state takes pride in your faith-based practice. Which is remarkably beautiful in itself. It is expected of us to actively participate in a state-sponsored orchestra of beliefs and non-beliefs, tooting our own horns.

This harmony sometimes threatens us with random cacophony. At times team work fails, and at other times the state actively promotes or passively mutes, one tooting section over another. We are familiar with our past histories and we do everything to not invite it.

It is in this light that a few events caught the media’s attention. This time around, the unlikely minority candidate were the christians. A string of mostly light stone peltings that can be best termed as vandalism, were termed as “church attacks”, and a few grunts of dissaprovals became “huge outrage” on social media. Rupa Subramanya discounted each one of them, to make sure the integral was never greater than the calculus.

I adore what social media is doing to the public discourse. As a loop-back mechanism to our governance, we are to be proud of what we have created. But there was dissonance here. It was not only a percieved threat that was amplified, it was false to begin with. And many took that argument at face value. NDTV and it’s anchors lost no time in weaving a popular narrative and my christian brothers consumed it like cola going out of stock.

As a Christian, suddenly I am a stranger in my own country, writes Julio Ribeiro, blared The Indian Express. He expresses his grief for his people thus:

“…the attack on Christian churches and schools in Delhi, all added to a sense of siege that now afflicts these peaceful people”.

An article in The Hindu “Being Christian In India” by Mari Marcel Thekaekara, attempts to sustain a narrative that I find faulty. She says:

“And I, too, as retired IPS officer Julio Ribeiro said in a recent article, feel threatened for the first time in my life, in my country.”

Reading these reactions, I had a momentary lapse of bearing. I did not feel the same way as some of these fellow-mates. I can dismiss the media hype, but can I discount my fellow christians? I asked myself:

1. Am I doing something wrong?
2. Am I a lesser christian than Ribeiro?
3. Is my identity less dependent on my faith than on my nationality? Should I be reversing it?
4. Why is there such comfort in christian victimhood?
5. Who among us takes refuge in it?
6. Why does media love it when I take refuge in minority victimhood, than if I do not?
7. Why is it that this is not a simple law and order issue and is being treated as a clash of disparate faiths?

The Saffron Swastika – Fascism’s India moment

In Political on November 24, 2012 at 10:36 am

Bal Thackeray, the leader of Shiv Sena died due to illness on the 17th November, 2012.  He was 86.  The political leaders of the country, along with the corporate honchos, filmdom’s Bollywood super stars and a large swath of urban Mumbai population paid rich tribute to this man.  State honors were provided as he was laid to rest in Shivaji Park.  He was wrapped in the Indian national flag, as a tearful Mumbai was artfully covered by a media that blared obsequious peans of it’s own.

In a quickly staged media event, a deferential following paying last rites to the elder Thackeray  was concocted as lending legitimacy to a leader’s factious legacy.

Most calling him Hindu Hriday Samrat or the emperor of Hindu hearts.  In a compelling The Hindu op-ed titled An Authentic Indian Fascism, Praveen Swami wrote about the abundance of tributes flowing in:

It is tempting to attribute this nauseous chorus to fear or obsequiousness. Yet, there is a deeper pathology at work. In 1967, Thackeray told the newspaper Navakal: “It is a Hitler that is needed in India today”. This is the legacy India’s reliably anti-republican elite has joined in mourning.

Swami goes on to argue that the Shiv Sena represents an authentic Indian fascism, created by the accommodations that India’s liberal democracy sought with communalism.  His litmus test of fascism has been Gramsci’s understanding that fascism is the excrement of a dysfunctional polity. He is correct in his observation that it was a dysfunctional polity that gave rise to the Shiv Sena.  But, was it fascism?

I apply a different definition and test this authentic Indian fascism.  Swami is right in his opinion that there are many fundamental building blocks within Shiv Sena that approached a classic fascism model.  I take Michael Mann’s construction instead, of classic fascism and apply it here to the Shiv Sena model.  Same subject, different angle.  According to Mann:

The pursuit of a transcendent and cleansing Nation-Statism through para-militarism. 

The Hijras of India

In Social on October 20, 2012 at 10:20 am

The hijras of India are unlike any you might see in any other part of the world.  You might have occasionally come across men dressed as women, wearing garishly bright makeup. They immediately attract attention to themselves for all the wrong reasons and most often win ridicule.

We are really not sure if eunuch, transvestite, gay or transgender is actually the right term for a hijra as their social mores are very unique and are almost above classification by western terms.  One can attempt to know them by their social mores rather than by classification by taxonomy, so here goes:

Who is a hijra?  
 

 
Is there no western classification to this transgender from India?  Because of a lack of proper english definition, most research points to hijras associated with a matriarchal, hierarchical clan that encompasses LGBT orientations.  Some relevant points here to help you understand who a hijra really is:

1. There are more than a million hijras in India, the largest presence in any country!

2. Hijras live in clans or all-male hijra communities.  The hierarchical head of such a community is called a guru.  The followers are chelas.  The gurus and chelas live in harmony.

3. In larger cities, like Delhi and Mumbai, hijra communities could coalesce based on language and caste but they are mostly secular in their views on everything.
 
 

Indian movies have portrayed hijras effectively in wedding celebrations and blessing of the new born
A popular Tamil movie Paruthiveeran, picturised Aravanis in a kick-ass song sequence. The Hindi movie Kunwara Baap, had hijras welcoming and blessing a new born baby. This timeless and evergreen classic to this day is an all-time favorite of the hijras.