Of Cabbages and Kings

December 2, 2008

Barkha Dutt Entertainments

Filed under: Across the Universe — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 10:25 pm

otherwise titled ‘We the People’ claims to be a talk show. The hostess has a careful selection of people calibrated to attract the very maximum of the wrong kind of attention – politicians, television personalities, “page 3” people…all what are known as ‘big names’ along with a sprinkling of victims and supposed experts/ intellectuals meant to provide some amount of legitimacy. Many of her invitees tend not to know anything at all about the subjects on which they hold forth. Those that seem like they are headed towards saying something remotely coherent never actually get there since Barkha Dutt invariably cuts them off. 

I usually find her show very entertaining, and pray as I watch it that nobody actually takes the tripe she spews to be any more than tripe. The latest show however degenerated into stupidity that was incredible even by Barkha Dutt standards, and which was particularly obnoxious given her blatant attempt to cash in on a major tragedy. I do not expect anyone to watch the whole thing (although if you do, you will be treated to Simi Garewal’s enthusiastic suggestion that the solution to the crisis is to carpet bomb the LTTE, and to be as scary as the USA was post 9/11, and another gentleman who insisted that we are ‘gonna’ stop paying taxes and that is the solution) but if you move over to the last bit, you will find it concludes with Simi Garewal insisting that the problem with the country was that if you stuck your head out of the back of the Four Seasons, you would see Pakistani flags flying on the slums behind. The audience, to its great credit, erupted. There’s School Ma’rm Barkha Dutt wagging her finger at all the naughty children and tells them that she is ashamed of them, instead of directing her admonitions to her ill-informed incendiery guest. The show closes with Barkha Dutt asking dramatically for observation of silence to show case her tom-toming conjured passion for the issue, and then going on to ruin any gravity that the silence may have had, by refusing to let her audience frame what the silence is for. [see the video]


September 26, 2008

Judging 377

Most progressive countries in the world have reached a stage where they have formalised gay unions and given homosexual couples most of the rights that heterosexual couples get from marriage.

In India, we are far far behind. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code has long been used to arrest and harass homosexuals. The words used in Section 377 are:


Section 377. Unnatural offences

Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation. -Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.

It is odd. If you just read the text of section 377, you may not find anything amiss. “Against the order of nature’ could mean anything – it would depend on what you construe as the order of nature. So to me for instance, intercourse between consenting homosexual couples would be entirely within the order of nature (as opposed to marital rape which is not recognised as rape in the eyes of Indian law).  However, as all lawyers and many other know, statutes are rarely restricted to their actual text and they come with all the baggage heaped onto them from years of interpretation by the judiciary. And the Indian Judiciary has managed to stuff anal, oral and thigh sex into its definition of acts against the order of nature.*

In 2001, the Naz Foundation filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court challenging the constitutional validity of secton 377 as it currently stands, and asking that the section be read so as not to prohibit homosexual relationships. The case has come up for hearing recently. The home ministry is insisting that one of major reasons against decriminalising homosexuality is that such a move would lead a rise in HIV and AIDS cases. This is a pretty funny sort of stand to take, especially given that the health ministry is in favour of decriminalisation for the same reason – it would reduce vulnerability to HIV and AIDS

Fortunately, the judges seem to be responding well to the arguments raised by the Naz Foundation in the petition. Perhaps the High Court will have the good sense to do something about this utterly ridiculous law after all…let us keep our fingers crossed.

Aside: Those interested in how irresponsible the media can get might get some pleasure out of comparing the CNN-IBN report of today’s hearing with Siddharth Narrain excellent piece (in the Indian Express)

* The Supreme Court seems to have defined intercourse in the order of nature as vaginal sex and nothing else. I’m going to have to check up on this but assuming that this is so, all non vaginal sex is currently criminal and punishable under law! So there you go, all you heterosexual followers of Vatsayana.

September 18, 2008

Media: the elitist watchdog?

Filed under: Across the Universe, Random musing — Tags: , , , , — Chinmayi @ 8:29 pm

24 hour news channels are the next big thing in India. They might have been a little more interesting if they attempted to report all that there was to report in a day (surely in a country where several rapes and several murders are committed in a day, not to mention all the bribing there is plenty of material to fill a day’s programme) instead of running the same ten minutes of commentary on the same issue again and again and again.

When Aarushi Talwar was found murdered in her room at her upmarket urban residence, the media broadcast little other news for about two months. A google search with just the term ‘Aarushi’ results in a long catalogue of newspaper reports about her

Another child, known only as ‘the deaf and dumb girl’ was raped by policemen a little over a month back. We have heard practically nothing about it.

There are over 15,000 (reported) incidents of rape in a year and around six thousand (reported) dowry deaths in this country. But most of these are brushed aside very quickly especially if the victim is a dis-empowered person. Sometimes the powerful lend their voices to the powerless and someone like Mathura becomes a little more visible. But for a large part, most of the victims that should share the media attention devoted to Aarushi are ignored and left to fend for their powerless selves.

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