Saturday 28 February 2015

The Indian Budget
The Indian Union Finance Minister in his budget speech said that the budget aims to create India as a manufacturing hub in the world, and this in turn will result in creating millions of jobs in India for the youth.
 There is a fundamental fallacy here, which is usually overlooked.
As I have repeatedly been saying, the problem in India is not how to increase production, the problem is how to raise the purchasing power of the masses, so that the goods manufactured are sold.
  The India of today is not the India of 1947. In 1947 we had very few industries, and very few engineers. Our British rulers had a policy of keeping India broadly unindustrialized, because if a large industry grew up in India it would become a rival for British industry. So the British permitted setting up in India only of some textile and plantation industries, which too were initially in British hands. They did not permit setting up of heavy industries ( except a small Tata steel plant ).
 This situation has since then drastically changed. Thanks to the vision of Pt. Nehru and his modern minded colleagues, after Independence a heavy industrial base was set up in India, and a large number of engineering and technical training institutes were also set up,some of them like I.I.T.s of a very high standard .
Consequently, the position in India today is that we have thousands of big, medium and small industries and thousands of bright engineers, technicians, managers and scientists.
  Coupled with the immense natural resources available in India ( India is not a small country like England, France, Germany or Japan, but is a sub continent ), this huge pool of technical skills enables us to increase production several times, which will of course result in creating a large number of jobs.
 The problem, however, is very different : how will the goods manufactured be sold ? After all, if goods are manufactured, they have also to be sold. Where is the purchasing power in the Indian people ? 75% of our 1250  million people are too poor to buy these goods, as they are already at the subsistence level. They hardly have money to buy food, how can they buy motor cars and other industrial products ? Yes, there is a middle class in India consisting of 15-20% of our population ( which amounts to 200 million people ) which had some purchasing power, but in view of the skyrocketing inflation ( foodstuffs etc are very expensive in India today ) even their purchasing power has been largely eroded.
 Some people say that we should manufacture for exports. There are 3 things to be said here (1) foreign consumer markets are already saturated with Chinese goods (2) there has been a recession going on for several years in the Western countries. From time to time it is claimed that there is a recovery in the economy, but such recoveries are not genuine recoveries (3) to be stable India must basically depend on its domestic market. Over dependence on foreign markets is very precarious, as that market may be captured by some other country, or there may be a recession in that foreign country, etc and then our factories will have to close down.
 So the problem really boils down to how to raise the purchasing power of our masses, because without doing that it is meaningless to talk of making India ' a manufacturing hub in the world '.

Friday 27 February 2015

Kailash Sethi

 In an earlier post, ' Reaching the age of sanyaas ', I had mentioned about my best friend, Kailash Sethi, who died some years ago in his home in Allahabad.
 Kailash and I were friends since our youth  He later joined the Indian Revenue Service of the Government of India, in the department of Customs and Central Excise and retired as a member of the Central Board of Customs and Central Excise.
 Kailash was a legend in his department, an outstanding officer, renowned for his high level of integrity and dynamism, and a hero to his subordinate officers.
 After my post mentioning him I received a message on facebook which I am copying ( without revealing the sender's name ) :

" Feb 27th, 7:12am
Re : Kailash Sethi
 Uncle Sir, my father was his ( Sethi Uncle's ) junior in the Department. He would often tell me anecdotes about Sethi Uncle and there were many. He was one of the most honest officers of the Central Government. Dishonest officers feared him like crazy just like the honest ones loved him.
 As the story goes, when he was Commissioner, all the junior officers would park their vehicles (which may have been procured through dubious means) at least a km away so as to escape his wrath. He once visited our place. At that time, even though he wasn't in the best of health, I remember he was still passionate about football and asked me to get my football boots and checked them thoroughly before letting me know that they were good. My mom would tell me about the his 4-5 pet dogs. Even after his retirement, my father made a trip or two to Allahabad just to see "Sethi sahab". Aunty even sent dad Sethi Uncle's photograph after his death. "

In his youth, Kailash's ambition was to join the Indian Air Force and become a fighter pilot flying jets. So he joined the National Defence Academy ( N.D.A. ) Kharakvasla as a cadet. Unfortunately he suffered an injury due to which he was discharged in his 3rd term in N.D.A. He came back to his home in Allahabad and was very depressed. I used to often go to meet him  at that time to console him. He often told me that whenever he sees an aeroplane in the sky he gets dejected, wishing that he had  been flying one of these aircrafts.
 Kailash's father, Mr.A.N. Sethi, was from that part of Punjab which is now in Pakistan. During British days he had been a contractor to the British army, and made a lot of money in his business, enough to enable him to retire early. He bought a huge house at 1 Sapru Road ( Club Road, in British Times ) Allahabad before Partition, and settled down there with his family. Kailash was the youngest of his 3 sons.
 Mr. A.N. Sethi was so regular in his habits that one could set his watch according to when he went for his morning walk, when he had lunch and dinner, when he sat down in the evening for his two pegs of whiskey with fried fish. I was a regular visitor to the house ( just as Kailash was a regular visitor to my house on Tashkent Marg ).
 Later, Kailash joined the Allahabad University, and, as I have mentioned in my earlier post, we played a lot of football, hockey and tennis together. Kailash topped in the Ll.B. examination of 1968 from Allahabad University ( I had topped in 1967 ).
  Later, Kailash sat for the competitive examinations and was selected for the Indian Revenue Service..
 I had joined a Solicitors' firm ( Fowler&Co.) in Calcutta in 1969, and Kailash was posted as an Asst. Collector in Calcutta. While I stayed with a relative, he stayed in the Y.M.C.A. on Chowringhee Road. My office was at 12 Govt. Place East, near Dalhousie Square. After my office hours were over, I would often walk down to the Y.M.C.A. to meet Kailash and some other friends from Allahabad who were staying there. On weekends we would sometimes go by train to the Dunlop Co. Estate at Shahganj, where we had friends with whom we spent time, swimming, playing tennis, etc
 I later came back to Allahabad to practise in the High Court, and Kailash, being a government servant, was posted to various places, but we met off and on.
  Kailash was a hero to his junior officers, and a terror to crooked businessmen and crooked officials. In a department which normally does not enjoy a high reputation for integrity, he was a shining beacon of uprightness to his juniors. Wherever he was posted, the revenue collections went up.
 The problem with him, and I told this to him repeatedly, was that he often took cudgels with powerful people. I would often tell him that the present system in India is so corrupt that it is beyond redemption, and so he should not think he can single handedly abolish corruption, and would only get into trouble if he tries to do so. But he would not listen. He even secretly got the telephones of some powerful people tapped ( to get evidence of their corrupt dealings ). These people got to know about it, and then they really went after him. They got him posted to some remote, insignificant places, and got enquiries instituted against him.
 The result was that Kailash became totally demoralized and depressed. He contracted some rare ailment, and later became bed ridden.
 After retirement he went back to his home in Allahabad, with which he was emotionally attached. Whenever I went to Allahabad I always went to meet him. Although he was my age he could hardly get up from bed. He would tell me " Mantu ( my nickname ), i don't want to live any more "
 He died a few years back. And a part of me died with him.

Na rahe baans na baje baansuri

Whenever people try to 'prove' the existence of God to me, I ask one simple question ( which was asked in Dostoevsky's ' The Brothers Karamazov ' ) : If there is a God and he is all powerful and good, then why do millions of children in the world suffer from hunger, cold, lack of medicines and homes ? In India, half our children are malnourished. Why does god not give them proper, nutritious food ? Many children shiver in the cold in winter. Why does god not give them warm clothes ? Many children are in poor health. Why does not God give them medicines ? Many children are homeless. Why does God not give them proper homes and good education ?

 When I put this simple question to these God believers, they become very uncomfortable, as if a bucket of hot water has been poured on them. They start squirming, wriggling, equivocating and hemming and hawing, and regard the person asking this question as impertinent and a crook. They avoid the question like the plague. But, my dear God believers, the question will not go away, however much you may try to avoid it

The Hindus will of course say that children suffer because in their previous lives they did bad deeds. But then for proving the existence of God they are presuming two other things, which themselves require proof (1) the existence of a soul, and (2) transmigration of this soul on one's death.

 Muslims will say that God should not be blamed for the misdeeds by men. The answer to this is : even if men are evil, but God is all powerful and good. Why then does he let millions of children suffer ? Why does he not give them proper food, clothes, homes, etc. Since he does not do so, God is either not powerful, or not good, but he cannot be both powerful and good.

 Since no real answer is available, the only way to deal with the situation is the simple Wahabi way : behead those who ask the impertinent question. Na rahe baans, na baje baansuri !.

The Grapes of Wrath

Reading John Steinbeck's '  The Grapes of Wrath '. I read it first half a century ago, and still enjoy reading it again. It is one of the most powerful novels of the 20th century, written with intense passion, but after careful personal observation to keep the account truthful.

 The novel is about the 300,000 migrant small farmers from Oklahama, east Texas and Arkansas in U.S.A. who had to abandon their farms because of the Depression, drought and dust storms which hit that area in the 1930s and migrated west towards California.. The novel revolves around the migrant Joad family

 Nobody normally likes to abandon his home, but desperate circumstances may compel him to. The migrants, who had lost their livelihood,  travelled west to California, which had been depicted in movies as a land of plenty. However, they were met there with hostility by the local people, who thought that the migrants ( who became known as 'Okies',  named after Oklahama, from where some of them came ) would take away their jobs or depress their wages by competition, and bring in slums and diseases. They jeered at the migrants, attacked them, and sometimes burned their camps.

The migrant families lived in horrible conditions, without proper food, water or sanitation, and often travelling from place to place looking for work. Families which once owned a farm and raised vegetables, corn, chicken and pigs were now living in squalor  in card board houses. their clothes soiled, and barely enough food to eat.

Steinbeck decided to study conditions among the migrant camps himself. So to avoid attracting notice he bought an old, battered bakery truck and travelled all over. He saw horrors which he never imagined existed in America. He saw families too poor to buy food, people drinking from dirty irrigation ditches, and diseased and dying children.

In one poignant scene the novel describes how a young malnourished woman, Rose, whose own child died stillborn, breast feeds a starving old man who would have died otherwise.
The novel describes vividly the journey of the Joad family from Oklahama to California, the grandparents dying on the way, and some family members splitting off. The Joads allowed a priest, Jim Casey, to join them on the way. Casey lost his belief in God seeing the misery, and remarks " There's no sin, and there ain't no virtue, there's just stuff people do ".  The Joads' food supply keep dwindling.

Steinbeck gives a vivid account of life during the migration. Twenty migrant families might camp beside a road together. " In the evening a strange thing happened : the twenty families became one family, the children were the children of all. ". The families temporarily became a phalanx, because that was the only way to survive. Young men could not have casual sex with a girl. If you liked her, and she liked you, you could marry her, but one night stands or casual affairs were simply inconceivable in these conditions.

 Writing the book became a single obsession for Steinbeck. It took him 3 years to write it, from 1936, when he started collecting material for it and making notes, to 1939, when it was finally published.. He wrote in a journal he kept during this period " My life is not very long. but I must write one good book before it ends. My other books ( 'Tortilla Flat', 'Of Mice and Men', 'Dubious Battle' etc ) have only been makeshifts, experiments and practices. For the first time I am working on a real book that will take every bit of experience, thought and feeling which I have."

Writing 5 or 6 days a week, sometimes as many as 2000 words at a stretch, Steinbeck worked himself to exhaustion. " John had never been so concentrated " his sister Beth recalled later " You almost couldn't talk to him ".

 Steinbeck called his novel ' The Grapes of Wrath '. Ripe grapes spill their juices when pressed for wine. The migrant families were ripe with wrath or anger that was ready to spill forth. Steinbeck wrote : " In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage ".

 Steinbeck's book was published in 1939 and created an uproar in America. Some people like California planters and big businessmen launched a campaign to defame Steinbeck and discredit his book. He was called a liar and a communist. This greatly discouraged Steinbeck, but his spirit revived when Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin  Roosevelt visited the migrant camps in California and said " I do not believe there is any exaggeration in the book 'Grapes of Wrath' " .

 Twentieth Century Fox made Grapes of Wrath a film, with Henry Fonda as Tom Joad. Many people expected studio executives to dilute Sreinbeck's social messages, but producer Darryl Zanuck researched the migrants' camps, and found conditions there much worse than that reported by Steinbeck.

Sadhvi Pragya

Some people asked me whether i will make an appeal for pardon to Sadhvi Pragya to the President/ Governor.

I have repeatedly asked such people requesting me to make an appeal for pardon to Sadhvi Pragya to send me the material in her case e.g. the FIR, statements of witnesses, etc so that I can study the same, but nobody has responded. Such people can contact her lawyer and get these and send them to me on my email id, but I am quite sure they will not make this effort, and only pretend to be concerned about her. But then again, I may be wrong..

 Unless I have the material and study it I can do nothing. I do not issue appeals for pardon lightly. I issue such appeals only after careful consideration of the material, and after being satisfied that  such an appeal is called for, and I will certainly do so for Sadhvi Pragya if satisfied after studying the material that she deserves pardon.

. In Zaibunnisa's case, her daughter Shagufta gave me the material, and in all other cases where I issued such an appeal, it was done only after careful consideration of the material.

Reaching the age of sanyaas

Went for a half hour walk. That is my only excercize, half an hour in the morning, and usually the same in the evening. Sometimes that is not possible, e.g. if it is raining, or for some other reason.

 When I was young I could run for several miles, but that is no longer possible now. At 69, though my mind is still young and active, I am physically on the decline. which is only natural

 When I was in the Allahabad University ( 1963-67 ), my best friend was, Kailash Sethi, who retired as a member of the Central Board of Customs and Central Excise,and was one of the most upright officers in a department which does not normally enjoy a high reputation for integrity. He is now dead ,

 Kailash and I used to play football together, practising almost every day. We represented the Allahabad University, and could have played at higher levels if we wanted to, but we had no time. We could kick a football from behind the half way line into the opponent team's goal, and could easily send a corner kick into the penalty box. We also played tennis and hockey together. But those days are gone, and so is Kailash.
 Now I start panting if I run for even 20 yards, and  get pain in bending. I am reaching the age of 75 years, when our scriptures have said one should take sanyaas

Thursday 26 February 2015


"J'accuse ...!" ( "I accuse...!") was an open letter published on 13 January 1898 in the newspaper L'Aurore by the renowned French writer Émile Zola ( author of the famous novel ' Nana ', etc )..

In his letter addressed to the President of France Félix Faure, Zola accused the French government of anti-Semitism and the unlawful jailing of Alfred Dreyfus, an innocent Jewish French Army General Staff officer who was sentenced to lifelong penal servitude for alleged espionage for Germany, and sent to Devil's Island, a horrible penal colony in French Guina, near South America, where he was kept in prison for 5 years.

Zola pointed out grave judicial errors and lack of serious evidence, and in fact it was later found that the real culprit who did espionage for Germany was one Major Esterhazy, and that Dreyfus was innocent.

The letter was printed on the front page of the newspaper and caused a huge stir in France and abroad. Zola was prosecuted for and found guilty of libel on 23 February 1898. To avoid imprisonment, he fled to England, returning home in June 1899.

Other pamphlets proclaiming Dreyfus's innocence included Bernard Lazare's A Miscarriage of Justice: The Truth about the Dreyfus Affair (November 1896). Dreyfus was later exonerated of the charges and reinstated in the army.

As a result of the popularity of Zola's letter, even in the English-speaking world, 'J'accuse!' has become a common generic expression of outrage over punishment of someone innocent. .

 I make the same accusation against the Indian establishment. Under the garb of combating terrorism it has jailed hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent persons, like Zaibunnisa Kazi, Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, etc particularly of the minority communities ( Muslims, Sikhs, etc ), often on the basis of fake, concocted or weak and unreliable evidence.

Interview by Times Now channel

I am in California i U.S.A..
 Last night ( which is the morning of the next day in India ) I was interviewed on Skype by Times Now channel regarding Zaibunnisa Kazi;s case.
 I said that clearly grave miscarriage of justice by the Indian Supreme Court  has been committed in her case ( see my blogs on Zaibunnisa Kazi on ).
 Zaibunnisa was one of the co-accused in the 1993 Bombay blast case but she was acquitted on the main charge of being a part of the conspiracy. What she was found guilty of, however, was having illegal weapons in her possession, and she was awarded a sentence of 5 years imprisonment.
 I had carefully studied the evidence and judgment in her case. The judgment was clearly incorrect, as it was said to be based on the retracted confession of a co-accused, Manzur. This itself was a very weak evidence, but a careful perusal of Manzur's deposition shows that nowhere has Manzur said so. Hence in fact Zaibunnisa has been convicted on no evidence, and this is also stated by Mr. Shanti Bhushan, a very senior lawyer of the Supreme Court ( and former Union Law Minister ) in his certificate with the curative petition, which i have quoted in an earlier post.
 Zaibunnisa had earlier been arrested and spent 9 months in jail, before being released on bail. After the judgment of the Supreme Court she has been rearrested, and is in jail.  She is 73 years old. She has had a kidney operation, and has other ailments, and can hardly walk. I fear she will not come out alive from jail.
 I am in touch with her daughter Shagufta at Shagufta needs all your support, as she has been fighting a lonely battle for her mother's release.
 I have been making appeals for her release to the concerned authorities, but as yet have been unsuccessful.
 Times Now channel is not available on my T.V. here so will someone please send me a link of my interview by messaging it to me on my facebook page or on my email id

Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid

When I went to Ayodhya a couple of years back I went to the Hanumangarhi temple and some other prominent temples there, I had a bath in the Saryu river ( I never knew it was so wide), but I refused to go to the so called ' Ram Janma Bhoomi', which had been erected on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid.

 I did not go there because I regard demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 as the greatest national crime and greatest tragedy after the Partition of India in 1947, and I refuse to convey the impression that I have condoned this crime.

No doubt a certain political party benefited from it by increasing its seats in the Lok Sabha from 2 to 184, but it was a catastrophe for the nation.

 I have repeatedly said that India is a country of great diversity, and whatever act divides us is anti-national. Inciting, instigating and actually perpetrating communal acts divides our country, and therefore obstructs our progress.

 India's main problems are abolition of widespread poverty and malnutrition, massive unemployment, almost total lack of healthcare and good education for our masses, etc To regard building of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya as a serious issue is really diverting the attention of the people from the real issues to non issues, and thus befooling our people to get their votes.

Those who incited communal tension and called for demolition of the Babri Masjid, and those who actually demolished it, were anti-national traitors to the nation, deserving the harshest punishment.

Why I go to Dargahs

Within a few days of taking over as Chief Justice of Madras High Court in November, 2004. I enquired whether there was a dargah in Chennai. I was told there is one called the Anna Salai Dargah ( Dargah Hazrat Syed Moosa Shah Qadri )on Mount Road. I sent a message there that I would like to come to pay my respects to the holy saint who has his grave there, and is said to have died about 450
years ago.( see link below ). I was told I was welcome. I went there and offered a chaadar.

 Since then I have been regularly visiting that Dargah whenever I go to Chennai. The old maulvi saheb who was there has since died, but others look after the shrine. They know me, and give me a lot of respect whenever I go there.

 I go to dargahs wherever and whenever I can, e.g. Ajmer Sharif, Nizamuddin Aulia ( and Amir Khusro, which is just next ), Kaliyar Sharif, Deva Sharif, etc.I get a lot of happiness and peace there.
 Some people may find it strange that a confirmed atheist like me visits dargahs.

 It is true that I do not believe in God. But it is also true that I respect the good things in Indian culture, and I respect people of all religions. Some of my closest friends are non Hindus.

 Why do I go to dargahs ? I go there because dargahs are shrines constructed over the graves of sufi saints, and I have great respect for sufi saints, who preached love, compassion and humanitarianism towards all. They made no distinction between Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc..Though the sufi saints were Muslims, they had many Hindu and Sikh disciples. Some sufi saints were persecuted by fanatical and bigoted people.

 Hindus do not go to mosques, Muslims do not go to Hindu temples, but everyone goes to, and is welcome, in dargahs. Often there are more Hindus than Muslims in some dargahs. So dargahs are places which unite all Indians, and I love whatever unites us, and am strongly against whatever divides us, like religious bigotry and intolerance.

 India is a country of great diversity. To progress we must remain united. So whatever promotes our unity, like dargahs, is good for us, and whatever divides us, like religious extremism and fanaticism, is bad for us..The Sufi spirit of tolerance and compassion is what all Indians must inculcate and imbibe..

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Are we a civilized society ?

I have always said that a hallmark of a civilized society is that minorities therein can live with dignity and honour, and it is the duty of the majority community, whether in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or elsewhere to ensure that minorities live with dignity and honour.
 But after incidents like these, where 150 families of the minority community have to flee their homes out of fear, I again ask : are we a civilized society ?.

Is there a God ?

 Many comments have been made on my previous post asking me why I say there is no God ? Here is my answer :

 (1) Religion believes that there is a supernatural being called God who is permanent, immortal, all powerful and good. Science does not believe in any supernatural beings, and does not regard anything as permanent or immortal. According to science the only reality is matter, which is in motion in accordance with certain laws which can be discovered by scientific research.

 (2) To the question who created matter the answer is that nobody created it. Matter always existed, though it may change its forms. Matter came out of matter. If we insist that there has to be a Creator, then the question arises : who created the Creator ? This is known in logic as the fallacy of the infinite regress

(3) Science does not claim to know the answers to all questions. But science is developing constantly. Many things which were unknown earlier are known today, thanks to scientific research. Earlier men believed that small pox is a goddess ( mata ) whose anger has to be propitiated. Today, due to scientific research, we know that it is due to a virus and can be prevented by vaccination. Earlier, tuberculosis, leprosy, etc were regarded as incurable diseases, now, thanks to scientific discoveries, cures have been discovered. Earlier we did not know how to harness electricity and atomic ( fission ) energy, now we have learnt how to do it.

 There are many things we still do not know, though scientific research is going on e.g. cure for cancer, and harnessing fusion energy. But the answers may be found in future.

 (4 ) If there is a God, why do millions of innocent children all over the world suffer of hunger, malnutrition, lack of clothes, medicine, good education and proper homes. If God is good and all powerful, why does he not give food, clothes,proper  homes,etc to the children deprived of them ?

(5) It is said that some scientists believe or believed in god. That is true. But it only proves that scientific and unscientific ideas can co-exist in the same person, and the struggle between the scientific and unscientific outlook is still going on.

The Monkey Trial

 I believe that all religions are superstitions, and the truth lies in science ( see my article ' Religion and Science ' on my blog ).
 It took a long, arduous struggle for the scientific outlook to gain acceptance in the world. For centuries the Church persecuted the greatest scientists with blind fury, torturing them ( e.g. Galileo, for propagating Copernicus' theory that the earth went around the sun, instead of vice versa as stated in the Bible ), burning them at the stake ( e.g. Bruno ), and prohibiting or destroying their works.
 As late as in 1925 a teacher John Scopes, was prosecuted on criminal charges in the town of Dayton in the state of Tennessee, U.S.A. for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution, which was prohibited by the Butler Act. This case became known as the Monkey Trial, and became the talk not only of America but also of the entire English speaking world.. A large number of media people and others descended upon witness and report on the trial.
 The vast majority of the people of Dayton were very religious and solidly for the prosecution. A jury was selected, 10 farmers, a teacher and a clerk  " They might as well have been recruited from the Anti-Evolution League ", said 'The Tribune'
The prosecution was led by William Bryan, former U.S. Secretary of State and thrice Presidential candidate. The defence consisted of the eminent lawyers Clarence Darrow and Malone ( about Darrow see my blog ' Lawyers duty to defend ')..
 Judge Raulston, who presided over the trial was himself a very religious and bigoted man. He began every Court hearing with a prayer from the Bible. On the third day Darrow objected to this, but Judge Raulston banged his gavel and said " Objection overruled "
  Raulston refused to allow scientists to be witnesses for the defence, except for one biologist whose testimony,too, he declared inadmissible. He accepted every suggestion of the prosecution, and overruled almost every objection of the defence.
 There was a sign board on the Court wall which said " Read your Bible ". Darrow objected, and said that either it should be removed, or another board put up saying " Read Your Evolution '. The board was removed.
 I his opening address, Darrow first moved a motion for quashing the indictment. He  began his arguments by saying that he was not against the Bible. Millions of people have got consolation from it. What he was opposed to was imposing religious views on anyone.
 " Can a legislative body say that one cannot read a book or speak on science unless it is in accordance with the Bible ? Can it say to an astronomer that he cannot turn his telescope towards the stars and planets lest he find that the earth is not the centre of the Universe ?
 There are scientists who say that animals and plants are a product of Evolution. But the along comes someone who says ' You have to believe as I believe. It is a crime to know more than I know. And they make a law to inhibit learning, and make the Bible the yardstick.
Are your mathematics good ? Turn to First Elijah two. Is your philosophy good ? See Second Samuel three. Is your astronomy good ? See Genesis, Chapter two, verse seven. Is your chemistry good ? See Deuteronomy
 Ignorance and fanaticism are ever busy and need feeding. After a while, Your Honour, we will be marching backwards to the glorious age of the 16th century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring intelligence, enlightenment and culture in the world."
 Judge Raulston rejected the prayer for quashing the indicment.
When the Court assembled on Wednesday, a priest was about to say prayers in the courtroom to which Darrow objected. " It has been my custom " said Judge Raulston " since I have been a Judge to have prayers in the Courtroom. I see no reason why I should not continue this custom "
 " Just a minute " said Darrow, " We took no objection on the first day, but seeing that this has persisted in every session, and the nature of the case being one where it is claimed that there is a conflict between science and religion, I object to the converting of this courtroom into a church."
 The objection was overruled.
 Bryan began his speech by saying : " Has it come to a time when the minority can take charge of a state like Tennessee and compel the majority to pay their teachers while they take religion out of the heart of their children ? Parents have a right to say that no teacher paid by their money shall rob their children of faith in God and shall send them back to their homes sceptical, infidels, agnostics or atheists. The Bible is the Word of God. The Bible is the only expression of man's hope of salvation ".
 On Monday, the seventh day of the trial, Darrow made a daring move. He called for Bryan to take the witness stand. This was unprecedented. Bryan was the lawyer for the prosecution, but all the same he agreed to depose.
 There followed next a two hour cat and mouse play in which Darrow completely demolished Bryan, and even converted many Dayton citizens to his view.
 This is given below :
The Court--Mr. Bryan, you are not objecting to going on the stand?
Bryan--Not at all.
The Court--Do you want Mr. Bryan sworn?
Bryan--I can make affirmation; I can say "So help me God, I will tell the truth."
Darrow--No, I take it you will tell the truth, Mr. Bryan.

Examination of W.J. Bryan by Clarence Darrow, of counsel for the defense:
Q--You have given considerable study to the Bible, haven't you, Mr. Bryan?
A--Yes, sir, I have tried to.
Q--Then you have made a general study of it?
A--Yes, I have; I have studied the Bible for about fifty years, or sometime more than that, but, of course, I have studied it more as I have become older than when I was but a boy.
Q--You claim that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?
A--I believe everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there: some of the Bible is given illustratively. For instance: "Ye are the salt of the earth." I would not insist that man was actually salt, or that he had flesh of salt, but it is used in the sense of salt as saving God's people.
Q--But when you read that Jonah swallowed the whale--or that the whale swallowed Jonah-- excuse me please--how do you literally interpret that?
A--When I read that a big fish swallowed Jonah--it does not say whale....That is my recollection of it. A big fish, and I believe it, and I believe in a God who can make a whale and can make a man and make both what He pleases.
Q--Now, you say, the big fish swallowed Jonah, and he there remained how long--three days-- and then he spewed him upon the land. You believe that the big fish was made to swallow Jonah?
A--I am not prepared to say that; the Bible merely says it was done.
Q--You don't know whether it was the ordinary run of fish, or made for that purpose?
A--You may guess; you evolutionists guess.....
Q--You are not prepared to say whether that fish was made especially to swallow a man or not?
A--The Bible doesn't say, so I am not prepared to say.
Q--But do you believe He made them--that He made such a fish and that it was big enough to swallow Jonah?
A--Yes, sir. Let me add: One miracle is just as easy to believe as another
Q--Just as hard?
A--It is hard to believe for you, but easy for me. A miracle is a thing performed beyond what man can perform. When you get within the realm of miracles; and it is just as easy to believe the miracle of Jonah as any other miracle in the Bible.
Q--Perfectly easy to believe that Jonah swallowed the whale?
A--If the Bible said so; the Bible doesn't make as extreme statements as evolutionists do....
Q--The Bible says Joshua commanded the sun to stand still for the purpose of lengthening the day, doesn't it, and you believe it?
A--I do.
Q--Do you believe at that time the entire sun went around the earth?
A--No, I believe that the earth goes around the sun.
Q--Do you believe that the men who wrote it thought that the day could be lengthened or that the sun could be stopped?
A--I don't know what they thought.
Q--You don't know?
A--I think they wrote the fact without expressing their own thoughts.
Q--Have you an opinion as to whether or not the men who wrote that thought
Gen. Stewart--I want to object, your honor; it has gone beyond the pale of any issue that could possibly be injected into this lawsuit, expect by imagination. I do not think the defendant has a right to conduct the examination any further and I ask your honor to exclude it.
The Witness--It seems to me it would be too exacting to confine the defense to the facts; if they are not allowed to get away from the facts, what have they to deal with?
The Court--Mr. Bryan is willing to be examined. Go ahead.
Mr. Darrow--I read that years ago. Can you answer my question directly? If the day was lengthened by stopping either the earth or the sun, it must have been the earth?
A--Well, I should say so.
Q-- Now, Mr. Bryan, have you ever pondered what would have happened to the earth if it had stood still?
Q--You have not?
A-- No; the God I believe in could have taken care of that, Mr. Darrow.
Q-- I see. Have you ever pondered what would naturally happen to the earth if it stood still suddenly?
A-- No.
Q--Don't you know it would have been converted into molten mass of matter?
A--You testify to that when you get on the stand, I will give you a chance.
Q--Don't you believe it?
A--I would want to hear expert testimony on that.
Q--You have never investigated that subject?
A--I don't think I have ever had the question asked.
Q--Or ever thought of it?
A--I have been too busy on thinks that I thought were of more importance than that.
Q--You believe the story of the flood to be a literal interpretation?
A--Yes, sir.
Q--When was that Flood?
A--I would not attempt to fix the date. The date is fixed, as suggested this morning.
Q--About 4004 B.C.?
A--That has been the estimate of a man that is accepted today. I would not say it is accurate.
Q--That estimate is printed in the Bible?
A--Everybody knows, at least, I think most of the people know, that was the estimate given.
Q--But what do you think that the Bible, itself says? Don't you know how it was arrived at?
A--I never made a calculation.
Q--A calculation from what?
A--I could not say.
Q--From the generations of man?
A--I would not want to say that.
Q--What do you think?
A--I do not think about things I don't think about.
Q--Do you think about things you do think about?
A--Well, sometimes.
(Laughter in the courtyard.)
Policeman--Let us have order....
Stewart--Your honor, he is perfectly able to take care of this, but we are attaining no evidence. This is not competent evidence.
Witness--These gentlemen have not had much chance--they did not come here to try this case. They came here to try revealed religion. I am here to defend it and they can ask me any question they please.
The Court--All right.
(Applause from the court yard.)
Darrow--Great applause from the bleachers.
Witness--From those whom you call "Yokels."
Darrow--I have never called them yokels.
Witness--That is the ignorance of Tennessee, the bigotry.
Darrow--You mean who are applauding you? (Applause.)
Witness--Those are the people whom you insult.
Darrow--You insult every man of science and learning in the world because he does believe in your fool religion.
The Court--I will not stand for that.
Darrow--For what he is doing?
The Court--I am talking to both of you....
Q--Wait until you get to me. Do you know anything about how many people there were in Egypt 3,500 years ago, or how many people there were in China 5,000 years ago?
Q--Have you ever tried to find out?
A--No, sir. You are the first man I ever heard of who has been in interested in it. (Laughter.)
Q--Mr. Bryan, am I the first man you ever heard of who has been interested in the age of human societies and primitive man?
A--You are the first man I ever heard speak of the number of people at those different periods.
Q--Where have you lived all your life?
A--Not near you. (Laughter and applause.)
Q--Nor near anybody of learning?
A--Oh, don't assume you know it all.
Q--Do you know there are thousands of books in our libraries on all those subjects I have been asking you about?
A--I couldn't say, but I will take your word for it....
Q--Have you any idea how old the earth is?
Q--The Book you have introduced in evidence tells you, doesn't it?
A--I don't think it does, Mr. Darrow.
Q--Let's see whether it does; is this the one?
A--That is the one, I think.
Q--It says B.C. 4004?
A--That is Bishop Usher's calculation.
Q--That is printed in the Bible you introduced?
A--Yes, sir....
Q--Would you say that the earth was only 4,000 years old?
A--Oh, no; I think it is much older than that.
Q--How much?
A--I couldn't say.
Q--Do you say whether the Bible itself says it is older than that?
A--I don't think it is older or not.
Q--Do you think the earth was made in six days?
A--Not six days of twenty-four hours.
Q--Doesn't it say so?
A--No, sir....
The Court--Are you about through, Mr. Darrow?
Darrow--I want to ask a few more questions about the creation.
The Court--I know. We are going to adjourn when Mr. Bryan comes off the stand for the day. Be very brief, Mr. Darrow. Of course, I believe I will make myself clearer. Of course, it is incompetent testimony before the
jury. The only reason I am allowing this to go in at all is that they may have it in the appellate court as showing what the affidavit would be.
Bryan--The reason I am answering is not for the benefit of the superior court. It is to keep these gentlemen from saying I was afraid to meet them and let them question me, and I want the Christian world to know that any atheist, agnostic, unbeliever, can question me anytime as to my belief in God, and I will answer him.
Darrow--I want to take an exception to this conduct of this witness. He may be very popular down here in the hills....
Bryan--Your honor, they have not asked a question legally and the only reason they have asked any question is for the purpose, as the question about Jonah was asked, for a chance to give this agnostic an opportunity to criticize a believer in the world of God; and I answered the question in order to shut his mouth so that he cannot go out and tell his atheistic friends that I would not answer his questions. That is the only reason, no more reason in the world.
Malone--Your honor on this very subject, I would like to say that I would have asked Mr. Bryan--and I consider myself as good a Christian as he is--every question that Mr. Darrow has asked him for the purpose of bring out whether or not there is to be taken in this court a literal interpretation of the Bible, or whether, obviously, as these questions indicate, if a general and literal construction cannot be put upon the parts of the Bible which have been covered by Mr. Darrow's questions. I hope for the last time no further attempt will be made by counsel on the other side of the case, or Mr. Bryan, to say the defense is concerned at all with Mr. Darrow's particular religious views or lack of religious views. We are here as lawyers with the same right to our views. I have the same right to mine as a Christian as Mr. Bryan has to his, and we do not intend to have this case charged by Mr. Darrow's agnosticism or Mr. Bryan's brand of Christianity. (A great applause.)
Mr. Darrow:
Q--Mr. Bryan, do you believe that the first woman was Eve?
Q--Do you believe she was literally made out of Adams's rib?
A--I do.
Q--Did you ever discover where Cain got his wife?
A--No, sir; I leave the agnostics to hunt for her.
Q--You have never found out?
A--I have never tried to find
Q--You have never tried to find?
Q--The Bible says he got one, doesn't it? Were there other people on the earth at that time?
A--I cannot say.
Q--You cannot say. Did that ever enter your consideration?
A--Never bothered me.
Q--There were no others recorded, but Cain got a wife.
A--That is what the Bible says.
Q--Where she came from you do not know. All right. Does the statement, "The morning and the evening were the first day," and "The morning and the evening were the second day," mean anything to you?
A-- I do not think it necessarily means a twenty-four-hour day.
Q--You do not?
Q--What do you consider it to be?
A--I have not attempted to explain it. If you will take the second chapter--let me have the book. (Examining Bible.) The fourth verse of the second chapter says: "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were created in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens," the word "day" there in the very next chapter is used to describe a period. I do not see that there is any necessity for construing the words, "the evening and the morning," as meaning necessarily a twenty-four-hour day, "in the day when the Lord made the heaven and the earth."
Q--Then, when the Bible said, for instance, "and God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day," that does not necessarily mean twenty-four hours?
A--I do not think it necessarily does.
Q--Do you think it does or does not?
A--I know a great many think so.
Q--What do you think?
A--I do not think it does.
Q--You think those were not literal days?
A--I do not think they were twenty-four-hour days.
Q--What do you think about it?
A--That is my opinion--I do not know that my opinion is better on that subject than those who think it does.
Q--You do not think that ?
A--No. But I think it would be just as easy for the kind of God we believe in to make the earth in six days as in six years or in 6,000,000 years or in 600,000,000 years. I do not think it important whether we believe one or the other.
Q--Do you think those were literal days?
A--My impression is they were periods, but I would not attempt to argue as against anybody who wanted to believe in literal days.
Q--I will read it to you from the Bible: "And the Lord God said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." Do you think that is why the serpent is compelled to crawl upon its belly?
A--I believe that.
Q--Have you any idea how the snake went before that time?
A--No, sir.
Q--Do you know whether he walked on his tail or not?
A--No, sir. I have no way to know. (Laughter in audience).
Q--Now, you refer to the cloud that was put in heaven after the flood, the rainbow. Do you believe in that?
A--Read it.
Q--All right, Mr. Bryan, I will read it for you.
Bryan--Your Honor, I think I can shorten this testimony. The only purpose Mr. Darrow has is to slur at the Bible, but I will answer his question. I will answer it all at once, and I have no objection in the world, I want the world to know that this man, who does not believe in a God, is trying to use a court in Tennesseee--
Darrow--I object to that.
Bryan--(Continuing) to slur at it, and while it will require time, I am willing to take it.
Darrow--I object to your statement. I am exempting you on your fool ideas that no intelligent Christian on earth believes.
The Court--Court is adjourned until 9 o'clock tomorrow morning."

Though Scopes was convicted and sentenced to a fine of 100 dollars ( the conviction was later set aside in appeal on a technical ground by the Tennessee Supreme Court ), it was a moral victory for Darrow, and a step forward for the cause of science.


Tuesday 24 February 2015

How I was almost sacked

I was appointed a permanent Judge of the Allahabad High Court in November 1991, and was almost sacked a few months thereafter. This is an untold story which you may find interesting.

 A few months after I was appointed a Judge a case came before me, Naresh Chand vs. District Inspector of Schools, Ghaziabad ( see 1992 Labour and Industrial Cases where the judgment is reported  ) which I heard and decided.

 The facts of the case were that a young man, Naresh Chand, had been appointed a biology teacher on ad hoc basis by the management of an obscure High School in District Ghaziabad in the State of U.P. in India.. Under the relevant rules, his appointment had to be approved by the District Inspector of Schools.

 The D.I.O.S. refused to approve the appointment on the ground that Naresh Chand belonged to an O.B.C. ( Other Backward Castes, which are the intermediate castes in India in the social ladder, below the so called ' upper castes ', but above the Scheduled Castes or dalits ), while the post had been reserved for a Scheduled Caste candidate.. Consequently his appointment was cancelled by the management of the school and his service was terminated. Naresh Chand challenged this before the Allahabad High Court, and the case came before me.

 I have always been passionate about science, and have always believed that science is the means of solving India's huge problems. This case gave me an opportunity of putting forward my philosophy in a judgment.

 The view I took was that though reservation on caste basis may be acceptable in other fields, they were not acceptable in the fields of science and technology because these fields were vital for India's progress, and hence no compromises were permissible in these fields. Consequently there could be no valid reservation in these fields, either for admission  in educational institutions or on jobs pertaining to these fields.  I remember a few passages of my judgment :

" The policy of reservations is basically a compromise between the need for excellence on the one hand, and the need to help the historically socially and economically disadvantaged classes on the other. However, in my opinion there can be no compromise in the fields of science and technology.

 When our country was on the scientific path it prospered. With the aid of science we had built mighty civilizations thousands of years ago when most people in Europe, except in Greece and Rome, were living in forests. We had made outstanding scientific discoveries, e.g. decimal system in mathematics, plastic surgery in medicine, etc. However subsequently we took to the unscientific path of superstitions and empty rituals, which has led us to disaster. The way out therefore is to go back again to the scientific path shown by our ancestors, the path of Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta, Sushrut and Charak, Panini and Patanjali, Ramanujan and Raman.

 While the socially and economically depressed classes should certainly be helped, the interest of the nation cannot be overlooked. As is said ' Interest Republicae Suprema Lex ' ( the interest of the republic is the supreme law ). A line has to be drawn somewhere to the policy of caste based reservations, and I draw the line at Science. Hence there can be no valid reservations in the field of science and technology."

  Consequently I quashed the order cancelling the appointment of Naresh Chand, and ordered his reinstatement.

 This judgment, delivered in 1992  (shortly after I had been appointed a Judge ), created a furore all over India. While huge rallies, particularly of students, were held in support of my judgment in many parts of India, there were counter rallies elsewhere. The media commented on it widely for several days, a large section supporting me, but another section attacking me.

 In Allahabad the ' Social Justice Movement '  publicly burnt my effigy and copies of my judgment. They resolved to place a lock on the gates of the Allahabad High Court, but were prevented by the police from doing so. A large contingent of policemen had to be placed around the premises of the Allahabad High Court. I started receiving threats by anonymous letters and on telephone.

 From the newspapers I learnt that the members of Parliament belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes held a meeting in Delhi and decided to bring a bill in Parliament for my impeachment..

  My wife and other family members were scared. I had just been appointed a High Court Judge, and here I was , on the verge of being sacked ! For a long time I could not go for walks ( which I am fond of ), and except for going to the High Court had to remain confined to my house.
 Fortunately, the storm blew over and I survived.
Why I feel like vomiting
This is a typical kind of 'news' being dished out by our leading newspapers nowadays, and we are supposed to lap it up like puppies.. I feel like vomiting on reading such stuff, so low has Indian politics gone down to.
 When our nation is facing massive problems, does such triviality even deserve a mention ? And does that boy, who has nothing in him except his ' dynastic blood ', deserve even a mention ?

Monday 23 February 2015

Fyodor Dostoevsky ( 1821-1881 )

Read ' Dostoevsky : His life and work ' by Konstantin Mochulsky.
 I had read many of Dostoevsky's works in my younger days, e.g. ' Crime and Punishment ', ' The Brothers Karamazov ', ' The Idiot ', ' Notes from the Underground ', ' The Devils ', etc
Whereas Tolstoy's ' War and Peace ', Margaret Mitchell's ' Gone With the Wind ', Sholokhov's ' Quiet flows the Don ', etc can broadly be described as historical novels, Victor Hugo's ' Les Miserables ', and the novels of Dickens, Balzac, Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya, John Steinbeck, Upton Sinclair, Mark Twain, Margaret Beecher Stowe,and Maxim Gorky as social novels, the novels of Dumas, Walter Scott, etc as romances, Dostoevsky is often described as the father of the psychological novel.
 Dostoevsky's novels shake up one's soul. I sometimes shiver while reading them. The very beginnings of ' Crime and Punishment ', ' Notes from the Underground ', etc create a grim atmosphere and melancholia. They can give the reader a depression. For example ' Notes from the Underground begin with the words " I am a sick man. I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I think my liver is diseased. ". ' Crime and Punishment ' begin with a miserable scene in the life of the student Raskolnikov.
 There is no doubt that Dostoevsky is a writer of great talent. As contrasted to the sentimental Victorian novelists, Dostoevsky's works unleash a veritable storm in the mind of the reader. This was no doubt a product of his own stormy life, which became intermingled with his writings. In 1849 he had been condemned to be executed for belonging to a revolutionary group in Russia, and in fact was put up before a firing squad when a reprieve from the Czar arrived.
 Dostoevsky saw and felt the terrible cruelties and injustices in Czarist Russia, and these are reflected in his writings. There is no doubt that he was a humanitarian and very talented. He raises penetrating questions, e.g. how can there be a God when many innocent children suffer of hunger, cold, beatings and deprivations ? ( see ' The Brothers Karamazov ' ). He accurately describes inhuman and cruel social situations e.g. how a beautiful, innocent, pure girl like Sonia Marmelodova is driven to prostitution to feed her family ( see ' Crime and Punishment ). In ' The Idiot ' he presents the innocent Prince Myshkin who trusts everybody, not knowing there are wicked people in the world who will take advantage of his trust.
  But is being talented enough for a writer? Dostoevsky is against progressive people and is a reactionary, who preaches acceptance of our fate, instead of bravely fighting against social injustice. He believes that the solution to all our problems lie in strictly following the precepts of Orthodox Christianity. He is critical of progressive people. His ' The Devils ' and ' Notes from the Underground ' were undisguised polemics against Chernyshevsky's ' What is to be done ? 'and the Narodniks who were fighting against the Czarist despotism..
 In this connection the view of the great writer Maxim Gorky about Dostoevsky is relevant.
In 1913, after attending a staging of Dostoevsky's ' The Devils' at the Moscow State Theater, Gorky criticized Dostoevsky and those who staged his works as “playing the hand of Czarist reaction.” On being subsequently rebuked for criticizing Dostoevsky’s ideology without paying proper regard to the writer’s talent, Gorky gave a damning description of his peers’ attitude towards Dostoevsky:
“This is the opinion of the literati, as I understand them:  they say that although Dostoevsky is a reactionary, and one of the founders of the zoological nationalism which is strangling us today, although he denigrated Granovsky and Belinsky and is an enemy of that very West by whose works and ideas we live, although he is a rabid chauvinist, an anti-Semite, a preacher of submission and patience – despite all this his artistic genius is so great that it outweighs all his sins against the concepts of justice which the best leaders of mankind have tried to work out. And, therefore, society has no right to protest against Dostoevsky’s tendencies and, in general, against any artist, whatever his preachment may be”.
Gorky’s critique caused some controversy at the time and set the tone Lenin’s opinions on Dostoevsky. Lenin’s published correspondence reveals that he followed the controversy surrounding staging Devils in 1913 and wrote Gorky a letter supporting his view on the matter. Similarly, a third-hand account of Lenin’s opinion, given in Meetings with Lenin, relates that Lenin said of Devils “[it is] a nasty, thoroughly reactionary work…and I have absolutely no inclination to waste my time on it” (ibid).
 The philosophical opposition of Lenin and Dostoevsky is also revealed in their two very different responses to the philosophy of Nikolai Chernyshevsky, revolutionary democrat, materialist, and utopian socialist. Lenin praised, and was influenced heavily, by Chernyshevsky’s philosophy. The title of Lenin’s political tract What is to be Done is a homage to Chernyshevsky’s utopian socialist novel of the same name.
 Dostoevsky on the other hand wrote 'Notes from the Underground' as a reaction against Chernyshevsky’s philosophy, and particularly against a passage from What is to be Done, in which the revolutionary hero of the novel states, “Yes, I will always do what I want. I will never sacrifice anything, not even a whim, for the sake of something I do not believe in. What I want, with all my heart, is to make people happy. In this lies my happiness. Mine! Can you hear that, you, in your underground hole?” Dostoevsky’s famous Underground Man came into being in response to Chernyshevsky’s challenge.
 In his famous speech in 1934 before the Congress of Writers in Moscow, Gorky reiterated his opinion of Dostoevsky. He said :
It is difficult to understand just what Dostoyevsky was seeking for, but towards the close of his life he found that that talented and most honest of Russian men, Vissarion Belinsky, was “the most noisome, obtuse and disgraceful thing in Russian life,” that Constantinople must be taken away from the Turks, that serfdom is conducive to “ideal moral relations between the landowners and the peasants,” and finally acknowledged as his preceptor Constantine Pobedonostsev, one of the grimmest figures of nineteenth century Russian life. Dostoyevsky’s genius is indisputable. In force of portrayal his talent is equal perhaps only to Shakespeare. But as a personality, as a “judge of men and the world,” he is easy to conceive in the role of a medieval inquisitor.
The reason why I have devoted so much space to Dostoyevsky is because without the influence of his ideas it would be almost impossible to understand the volte face which Russian literature and the greater part of the intelligentsia made after 1905-06 from radicalism and democracy towards safeguarding and defending “law and order.”
 Being talented and humanist is not enough for a writer, he must also have progressive views. Art and literature must serve the people ( see my article ' The Role of Art and Literature ' on my blog )

Schiller ( 1759-1805 )

Friedrich Schiller is my favourite German writer. I found his ' The Robbers ', ' Don Carlos ', ' Wallenstein ' and ' William Tell ' fascinating.

 But when I mentioned about him and his works to some German friends they seemed hardly interested. They had read these books in school in Germany, but said they found them boring. On the other hand I found them very interesting.

 I think the reason for this is that India today is to some extent similar to Germany in Schiller's time, that is, passing through a stormy, transitional period in its history.

Schiller was part of the Romantic ' Sturm und Drang ' ( Storm and Stress ) movement in Germany, to which great writers like Goethe, Lessing and Wieland also belonged

 For example, in 'The Robbers' there are two brothers, the elder brother Karl being an idealist who becomes a rebel, while the younger Franz is a selfish person who only wants to inherit his father's property and accumulate money. Thus, there is a clash of values, as is happening in India today.

' Don Carlos' is about the freedom loving Don Carlos, the son of his tyrannical father, Philip the Second, the King of Spain who wants to suppress the Dutch and impose the Inquisition. Don Carlos takes the side of the freedom loving people of Netherlands, who are in revolt against their ruler, the despotic King of Spain.

The patriotic Indians, who are rebels like Karl or Don Carlos, want to take India forward, while the selfish people like Franz ( who are in the vast majority ) only want to make money by any means.
Germany has passed this transitional period, and hence naturally Germans find Schiller's plays uninteresting.

Sunday 22 February 2015

Aam Admi ki Sarkar

This is a message I got on facebook. I thought i may share it with you all. I have deleted the sender's name

Hello Sir,
I really liked  your posts " AAP workers should be made Special Officers ' ? , 'I Love Lucy' and 'The genii is out of the bottle', for two reasons:
1) All posts are based on solid facts and reasons which are hard to refute even by AAP supporters
 2) Its a constructive criticism as you have warned Kejriwal of controlling these unruly white capped AAP workers, which is very true.

Sir you are absolutely right, when you said every Delhiite wearing a white cap is now considering himself as  the King of Delhi and issuing orders to officials. The officials are also scared of them.

The other day only, one of my affluent neighbors said that he will not pay for his water and electricity bills, falsely claiming that they are inflated, and will seek a reduction from the govt.

 I asked him that despite being well- off why are you not paying the bills honestly, failing which the company will cut-off your connection?

He replied," Ab to Aam Aadmi ki Sarkar hai, ab koi afsar hamaara kuch nahi bigaad sakta."

I am afraid that now the people living in illegal colonies in Delhi ( who are around 40-50 lakhs) will also start doing the same, which seems quite probable, and then the electricity companies will stop  distributing  electricity and close down, plunging Delhi into darkness..

AAP workers should be made Special Officers

It seems to me that the biggest problem for Kejriwal now is not how to solve the problems of Delhi but how to control the hundreds of thousands of unruly white capped AAP workers, who are spread all over Delhi, and who all now claim to be its kings. Like the hundreds of thousands of stormtroopers ( S.A.) who helped Hitler come to power in January 1933, and then demanded their pound of flesh, the AAP stormtroopers will naturally demand the same, in some form or the other.

 Hitler of course solved the problem by bumping of Ernst Roehm and the other top leadership of the S.A. in the ' Night of the Long Knives ', but poor Kejriwal can hardly do the same.

 Most of the lumpen elements in Delhi ( and there are hundreds of thousands of them ) now seem to have joined AAP. They shift their loyalties quickly to whichever party comes to power.

 In this situation I have a suggestion to make to Kejriwal : he should appoint all AAP workers as Honorary Special officers of Delhi. 
 These ' Special Officers ' need not be paid anything by the government. But they should be given the power to realize from the people of Delhi as much as they require, by whatever means they think best.

The 95%

I regard my post ' Robespierre ' as one of the best I have ever written ( see on my fb page and on my blog ).
 To write that post required a tremendous amount of effort.  I had to search for and borrow half a dozen books on the French Revolution, including a couple of biographies on Robespierre, from the Fremont library, which I took home. Then it took me 2 or 3 days intense study to carefully go through those books. Thereafter I spent about 5-6 hours writing that post, correcting it again and again so as to perfect it and then present it to the readers.
 But what was the upshot ? There were just 18 comments on that post, half of which were frivolous or not pertaining to the topic ( some of them being so stupid that I deleted them )
 In contrast, there were literally hundreds of comments on my 3 posts on the Burari police station incident in which there was a scuffle between AAP MLAs and workers and the police.
 This just shows the superficiality in most people, and bears out my 90% ( or is it 95% ? ) comment. Most people in India either do not have brains or do not wish to apply them to serious matters, and only relish mirch masala.
 Hari Om !

I Love Lucy

 I was very fond of the American T.V. serial ' I Love Lucy '.
 In one of these serials, Lucy enters the headquarters of a very large American company, and starts giving orders to some of its top management officials.
 One of the officials asks Lucy who she is ? She replies she is the owner of the company. The official asks how ? She replies because she is a shareholder, and the share holders are the real owners of a company.
 The official then asks " Ma'am, how many shares of our company do you own ? ".
 Lucy replied " One share. But all the same it makes me owner of this company "
  To my mind, the members of AAP are all Lucys. Having won a sweeping election in Delhi, they now believe that they are the masters of Delhi, and all officials in Delhi must now kowtow before them and take their orders. In fact they are worse than Lucy because Lucy never physically assaulted anyone.
  The Burari police station incident is proof of this. 9 policemen were beaten up by AAP supporters in the incident.
  The AAP spokesmen  claim that there was a lathi charge by policemen on AAP workers. But why was there a lathi charge ? It was because some AAP  supporters first started pelting stones at the policemen, probably because an AAP vehicle was refused entry into the police station. Policemen do not make lathi charges for no rhyme or reason. And a police station is not the private property of AAP whose members can park their vehicles there
 Now if people take the law into their own hands and start throwing stones at the police there is likely to be a retaliation in the shape of a lathi charge. After all, policemen are not wearing bangles ( choodiyan naheen pehen rakkhee hain ). What right did AAP workers have to start throwing stones at the police in the first place ? And if in retaliation there is a lathi charge, why do they complain ?
 I was Chief Justice of three High Courts ( Acting Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, and Chief Justice of Madras and Delhi High Courts ). My experience has been that whenever there was a scuffle between the lawyers and the police, usually the violence was begun by the lawyers by pelting stones at the police, or beating up some policeman. The action of the police was only a reaction, and was subsequent.
 Similarly, I can visualize what happened at Burari police station.  The AAP supporters first threw stones at the police, which was followed by a mild police lathi charge. The police do not make a lathi charge for no rhyme or reason.
 As I said in my previous post, victory in the recent Delhi elections has gone to the head of AAP workers, who have become so puffed up and arrogant that they believe all authorities in Delhi are their servants who must obey their orders.
 If Mr.Kejriwal had any modicum of decency he would have admitted the misbehaviour of his workers, apologized, and suspended his 2 MLAs. However, instead of doing so, he has, through his spokesmen, tried to justify their acts. The magisterial enquiry he has ordered is only a sop, and will not befool anyone.

The genii is out of the bottle

 Friday's attack by two MLAs of AAP and AAP supporters on a police station in Delhi, referred to in my previous post, in which 7 policemen were beaten up, clearly shows the shape of things to come.
 Hundreds of thousands of Delhiites had put on white caps and became ardent AAP supporters, and now after the sweeping Delhi Assembly election victory, have become puffed up and started regarding themselves as kings of Delhi. Any Delhi authority who does not kowtow before them and accept whatever they say risks manhandling and physical assaults.
 Arvind Kejriwal or his associates will not be able to control these hordes of unruly anarchists. Nobody can control them now. The genii is out of the bottle. The event at Burari police station will be repeated ( no doubt in different forms ) hundreds, if not thousands, of times.
Mr. Kejriwal, no amount of magisterial enquiries can now be of any avail. You have sown the wind, now you will reap the whirlwind.
Robespierre ( 1758-1794 )
Whenever I have uttered the word ' Robespierre ' before French men or French women, they were horrified, as if they imagined a guillotine arising in front of them.
Maximilien  Robespierre is one of the most vilified figures in history. Englishmen find him repellant, Frenchmen ( his own countrymen ) even more so.
 I remember when I was on a visit to Paris I mentioned the name Marie Antoinette ( the same Queen of France who heartlessly remarked " If the people do not have bread let them eat cake ") to some French people gathered at the Hotel de Ville. They were full of sympathy for her  But at Robespierre's name they recoiled, as if confronted with a man eating tiger. There are no memorials or monuments in his honour in France, only a shabby metro station in a poor suburb of Paris bears his name.
 I have always been an admirer of the French Revolution ( 1789-1794 ), and Robespierre has always been one of my heroes. Like me, he was a disciple of the great French thinker Rousseau. Although belonging to the middle class in France, he identified himself with the poor people, the sans culottes and championed their cause.
 After being elected to the Estates General in 1789 Robespierre consistently attacked the French monarchy and aristocracy, which had become unjust, tyrannical and outdated institutions, and championed democratic reforms. He supported the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, universal male suffrage ( the principle of womens' suffrage had not then been conceived of ), abolition of slavery and establishment of a Republic. He proclaimed : " The secret of freedom lies in educating the people, whereas the secret of tyranny lies in keeping them ignorant ".
 Nobody ever questioned Robespierre's personal integrity, whereas the financial integrity of some of his colleagues in the Revolution like Danton was always suspect. Robespierre never benefited personally in any way by being one of the leaders of the French Revolution. When he died he left behind him hardly any assets.
 His secretary, Pierre Villiers, has written in his Memoirs " Several times I have known him to refuse offers of money that required from him no return, not even thanks, and if sometimes I allowed myself to insist on his accepting, he abused me " .
 Robespierre has been accused of being a demagogue, dictatorial, and a fanatic. The truth is that he was a spokesman for the poor and oppressed people of France and of the whole world, a fierce adversary of royalists, aristocrats,  dishonest and corrupt politicians, and staunch guardian of the French Republic which was then in its infancy.
 In 1792 when the French people and most members of  the French Legislative Assembly were carried away by war hysteria, whipped up by Brissot and the Girondins, who wanted to declare war on Austria, Robespierre repeatedly warned people about its outcome.
 Robespierre argued that whether the French armies were victorious or defeated , in either case it would be disastrous for France. If victorious, the French generals would come back and become dictators, if defeated, the victorious foreign armies would hang the revolutionaries, restore the monarchy, and enslave the people.
 " In troubled periods of history," he said in a speech to the Assembly " Generals often become the arbiters of the fate of their countries. If they are Caesars or Cromwells, they seize power for themselves. If they are spineless courtiers, they are yet dangerous and harmful, for they lay their power at their master's feet and help him resume arbitrary power on condition that they become the chief servants ".
 He added " The most extravagant idea that can arise in a politician's head is to believe  that it is enough for a people to invade a foreign country to make it adopt the invader's laws and ideas. No one loves armed missionaries. The Declaration of the Rights of Man ( passed by the French National Assembly in August, 1789 ) is not a lightning bolt which strikes every throne at the same time. I am far from claiming that our Revolution will not eventually influence the fate of the world. But I say that it will not be today "
 On 29th October, 1792, Louvet Couvrat attacked Robespierre viciously in the French Convention, accusing him of condoning acts by the people which were illegal.
 Robespierre replied on 2nd November " I am accused of condoning acts which were illegal. But Citoyens ( Citizens ), the Revolution was illegal, the storming of the Bastille was illegal, the abolition of the Monarchy was illegal. Do you want a Revolution without a Revolution ? ( Citoyens, vouliez-vous une revolution sans revolution ? ).
  Robespierre was not by nature a violent man. In fact he had earlier been against the death penalty. He was wrongly identified with another leader of the French Revolution, Marat, who often said  " My policy is the policy of cutting off heads ". In fact Robespierre was a moderate as compared to some of his bloodthirsty colleagues like Marat, Fouche and Tallien.
 In this connection a passage from the Memoirs of his younger sister Charlotte is relevant :

" I have often heard my brother’s name attached to that of Marat, as if the way of thinking, the sympathies, the acts of those two men were the same, as if they had acted in concert. It is thus that the portraits and busts of Voltaire and Rousseau are placed side by side, as if those two great writers had been the best friends in the world when they were alive, while in truth they found each other insufferable. I do not claim to discount Marat’s merit, nor make an attempt on the purity of his devotion and of his intentions. Some have dared to say that he was in the pay of foreigners; but have they not said that of my brother? The field of the absurd is immense and limitless. Have they not said of Maximilien Robespierre that he had asked the young daughter of Louis XVI in marriage? After such an accusation nothing should be surprising anymore; more burlesque and impossible assertions must be expected; it is the nec plus ultra of inanity.
                To return to Marat, I will dare to affirm that he was not an agent of foreigners, as it has pleased some to say; Marat had felt the infamies of the Ancien Régime and the poverty of the people strongly; his fiery imagination and his irascible temperament had made him an ardent, and too often even imprudent, revolutionary; but his intentions, I repeat, were good.
                My brother disapproved of his exaggerations and his rages, and believed, as he said many times to me, that the course adopted by Marat was more detrimental than useful to the revolution. One day Marat came to see my brother. This visit surprised us, for, usually, Marat and Robespierre had no rapport. They spoke first of affairs in general, then of the turn the revolution was taking; finally, Marat opened the chapter on revolutionary rigors, and complained of the mildness and the excessive indulgence of the government. “You are the man whom I esteem perhaps the most in the world,” Marat said to my brother, “but I would esteem you more if you were less moderate in regard to the aristocrats.” – “I will reproach you with the contrary,” my brother replied; “you are compromising the revolution, you make it hated in ceaselessly calling for heads. The scaffold is a terrible means, and always a grievous one; it must be used soberly and only in the grave cases where the patrie is leaning toward its ruin.” – “I pity you,” said Marat then, “you are not at my level.” – “I would be quite grieved to be at your level,” replied Robespierre. “You misunderstand me,” returned Marat, “we will never be able to work together.” – “That’s possible,” said Robespierre, “and things will only go the better for it.” – “I regret that we could not come to an understanding,” added Marat, “for you are the purest man in the Convention.”

 The unanimous Declaration of a Republic by the French Convention on 21st September 1792 left open the question of the fate of King Louis 16th. Robespierre argued that Louis should be put to death without a trial. He pointed out that Louis had denounced the French people as rebels, and had appealed to the ruling monarchs of other countries to invade France to restore him to his throne ( as his correspondence which had been discovered in a secret vault had revealed )., which established his guilt.
 Hence to hold a trial, he argued, would be a retrograde step. It would be a resort to legality, when the matter was political. It would be a counter revolutionary step, as it would place the Revolution itself on trial, because if Louis was acquitted, the Revolution would stand condemned, along with its supporters.
 " Citizens, take a warning " said Robespierre " You are being fooled by false notions. You confuse civil rights of citizens with the principles of the rights of mankind, you confuse the relationships of citizens among themselves, with the connection between our nation and the enemies who conspire against it, you confuse the situation of a people in revolution, with that of people whose government is affirmed "
 He continued : " Ordinary misdemeanours have rarely threatened public safety because society can usually protect itself by other means, making those culpable powerless to harm it. But for a King dethroned in the bosom of a Revolution, which is yet to be cemented, a king whose name attracts the scourge of war upon a troubled nation, neither prison nor exile can suffice. With regret I pronounce this fatal truth : Louis must die, so that the nation may live "
 Robespierre held no office till he became a member of the Committee of Public Safety in July, 1793. Till then he was only an ordinary member of the Third Estate in the  Estates General ( which later declared itself the French National Assembly ) and then the National Convention. His power was derived from his hold over the Jacobin Club.
 Robespierre has been vilified for the Terror which lasted in France from July 1793 to July 1794. While there is no doubt that excesses were committed during this period ( and in which Revolutions are excesses not committed ?), one must also remember the circumstances in which France was placed at that time. Many foreign powers were conspiring against it and actually waged wars against the French Republic, which was then isolated. There were also internal enemies of the Republic who wanted it destroyed. Hence harsh measures were certainly called for.
 On 5.2.1794 Robespierre justified the use of harsh measures in his speech to the Convention " If virtue be the mainspring of a popular government in times of peace, virtue combined with terror is the mainspring of that government during a revolution. We have to lead the people by reason, and their enemies by terror. Without terror virtue is impotent. Terror is only justice, prompt, severe and inflexible. It is then an emanation of virtue. Terror is less a principle in itself than a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to the most pressing needs of the nation. "
 Robespierre added  " Slowness of judgments is grant of impunity. Uncertainty of punishment encourages all the guilty "
 The tragedy of Robespierre was that he had no scientific understanding of the laws of social development, because those laws had not been discovered till then.
 Having eliminated Hebert, Ronsin and others on the left who wanted to intensify the Terror in March, 1794, and ' Indulgents ' like Danton and Camile Desmoulins who wanted to end it ( Camile demanded a ' Committee of Clemency ' to release people imprisoned ). Robespierre just did not know what to do next.. So he decided that France needed a spiritual resurgence, and organized a Festival of the Supreme Being on 8.6.1794, over which he presided. This was, of course, nonsense.
 Some members of the Convention thought he had gone too far., One oif them is said to have remarked " It is not enough for him to be a master, he wants to be a god "
 By then Robespierre had created many enemies in the Convention. These included Tallien and Fouche, who had been earlier appointed representatives on mission to Bordeux and Lyons, but were recalled at Robespierre's instance for excesses they had committed.
 On 26.7.1794 Robespierre appeared before the Convention, and defended himself of the charge of wanting to become a dictator, but warned of a conspiracy against the Republic. He implied that some members of the Convention were part of it, but when pressed refused to disclose any names. This alarmed many members who thought they too were being alluded to, and they then started fearing for their own lives. The next day they voted for his arrest and execution.
 The French Revolution destroyed feudalism in France, and was thus a great step forward in history. It proclaimed the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity, which were revolutionary ideas for those times. But these ideas were later interpreted  by the emergent bourgeosie, to mean freedom to do business, freedom of contract and freedom to trade, and not as social and economic equality for the people.
The great ideas of the French Revolution were thus corrupted by a rapacious cabal in the Convention. Robespierre, who represented,and had huge support among the poor people of Paris and France, and is still revered in Haiti, was destroyed by this cabal.

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