Do We Care About Statues

Last Sunday, June 7, it was a cheering feeling for me when the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol got pulled down as a result of the killing of George Floyd by the police in the US.

The act was a symbolic disgrace to the man who made fortunes by selling and exporting African slaves to America. The slave trader might have contributed his ill-earned wealth to educational institutions, but his profession was inhumane and certainly not worth to be honored with a statue.

I am against erecting statues in honor of or memory of public figures no matter how much their contributions to society are perceived. As time flows, more revelations emerge about them that are not either complementary to them or acceptable to the public as well. It is happening to the statues of Gandhi in South Africa.

Moreover, there is always the politics of statues. That involves cashing in on the sentiments of the public by the leaders. The new mammoth statue of Sardar Patel in Gujarat state in India is an example.

Statues are expensive to build with public-funded money and are costly to maintain them daily. Otherwise, they are the perfect landing spots for birds to relieve themselves. Birds, indeed, love them, but does the public care about them in the long run.

-by Promod Puri

WHERE IS GOD AMID CORONAVIRUS?

By Promod Puri

Churches, temples, mosques, or Gurdwaras may not be much congregated these days due to the Coronavirus epidemic worldwide. This emptiness at the places of prayers is either due to imposed restrictions or people just avoiding venues of large gatherings.

The business of religion, like any other business, is down. But this business is exceptional. In principle, besides being a medium to seek God’s grace and express gratitude, religion should reveal the path to discern and realize the nature of the Creator.

During the time places of religious conduct have their doors locked, people still believe in some divine intervention while expecting a cure from science for the Covid-19.

The big question is, where is God in the holy cities from Varanasi to the Vatican? The divinity of God is on the spot with the near shutdown of houses of gods.

Where is God, the Savior, in this period of a severe crisis of global viral pandemic facing humanity!

The believability of His or Her existence, based on ritualistic and conceptual physical presence, is rightfully questioned. Is God avoiding His responsibility by fleeing from the scene?

The rationality of this sentiment rests on the irrationality of believing in senseless miraculous powers and superstitious convictions. These beliefs and customs are embedded in almost all religious orders and amply propounded in the business of religion.

People seek proof of God, but the sample of evidence they are following is the one they evolved. They want to see the physical existence of God residing in a physical dwelling.

It is in this regard, the rationality and understanding of God need a comprehensive review.

Merely believing that God exists is a ritual.

As far as Coronavirus or Covid-19 is concerned and expecting God to get involved for a miracle cure, it is just a fanatic expectation of the believers and a taunting statement of non-believers that He or She is physical up there in the sky.

 

PASSING THROUGH RACIST PASSAGE OUR HISTORY FROM HINDOOS TO SOUTH ASIAN CANADIANS

By Promod Puri

Insensitivity and ignorance have been part of Canada’s racist history.

Immigrants, especially from the “visible minority” communities, not only faced racial discrimination in most aspects of their lives in Canada, but they could also discern reflections of bigotry and segregation in their labelings.

In the early part of the twentieth-century immigrants from the Indian subcontinent were all classified as “Hindoos.”

Komagatamaru passengers dominated by Sikhs (340), Muslims (24), and Hindus (12) were all docketed as “Hindoos” by the authorities and the media of the time, including The Vancouver Sun. They were all British subjects, but the use of the misspelled word as “Hindoos” reveals both ignorance and ethnocentric arrogance.

The “Hindoo” entitlement carried on for a long time not only by the government and the media but by the Canadian public as well. And for a brief duration in the early ’70s during the extreme racist period, especially in Europe, that here in Canada, Asian subcontinent migrants were stamped as “Pakis” by the born-racists Canadians of the redneck likes.

The tagging of immigrants as “Hindoos” and “Pakis” from the subcontinent was not merely for identification purposes, but in any event of hatred, the monikers often carried abusive connotations.

However, with more numbers filling the population, demography of Canada over the years, and with improved knowledge and understanding within the changing Canadian society that “Hindoos-Pakis” got some better grading in their designation.

The title “East Indian” was assigned, and that became prevalent in the overall multicultural Canadian population. This identification also distinguished migrants from India from Native Indians. The “East Indian” entitlement lasted till most of the recent times, but occasionally it is still being used.

As the nomenclature process continued, the next appellation was Indo-Canadian. This development happened although migrants were also coming to Canada from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc.

But the metamorphosis was significant as the community got the hyphen between “Indo” and Canadian. Canadians from most other multicultural communities were hyphenated too. The hyphen marked and recognized the distinctive cultural diversity of Canadian society.

However, there were ultra-nationalist Canadians, including some from the ethnic communities, who were against the hyphenated designation of Canadians. They were the ones who opposed Canada’s multicultural entity. Instead, they sought a melting pot of all cultures to fancy a composite Canadian culture.

Till now, all the identification labels were assigned either by government authorities, media or the public in general

But the scenario got changed. In the ’70s, The Link newspaper(myself being its editor and publisher), along with several other groups representing immigrants from the sub-continent, took up the entitlement on themselves and started using South Asian Canadian expression.

Soon this designation got an easy acceptance, especially from all levels of government as they were also looking for the right term for all those immigrants with roots in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and other smaller states of the subcontinent.

The South-Asian-Canadian entitlement precisely and unequivocally represents all those new Canadians sharing related cultural, linguistic, and religious values of the region. They include as well immigrants not coming directly from South Asian countries but from all over the world with roots in the Indian subcontinent.

Under this banner lies the cultural and linguistic diversities of South Asia, besides representing a joint ethnic force that adds its chapter to fight for racist-free Canada.

promodpuri.com

 

Coronavirus Pandemic Falls Heavy On India’s 200 M Lowcaste Population

Migrant workers leaving New Delhi to go back to their villages amid the coronavirus lockdown. AP Photo/Manish Swarup

Sumit Ganguly, Indiana University

BY SUMIT GANGULY, INDIANA UNIVERSITY

Long before the outbreak of COVID-19, a more pernicious form of social distancing was widespread across India: the Hindu caste system. In one form or another, this system – which has existed in the region for over a millennium – has long ensured social segregation based on one’s place in the hierarchy.

Outside of the four main groups that make up the caste system – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras – stand the Dalits, the so-called “untouchables” that number some 200 million. Members of that group, shunned for centuries as the lowest in society, are now at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic – seemingly more at risk of infection due to their social status, and increasingly discriminated against for the perceived threat of contagion they pose.

Downtrodden and discriminated against

India’s caste system can be traced back over 2,000 years, but under British colonial rule, the system was reinforced and the categories became more rigid.

After India gained its independence from Britain, in 1947, its new constitution formally banned the practice of untouchability based on caste. But 70 years on, the system still permeates everyday life. It is especially evident in the realm of marriage. Hardly a day passes in India without a news report highlighting troubles associated with an inter-caste marriage.

Given the tenacity and pervasiveness of the caste system, it is hardly surprising that some of the worst sufferers of the COVID-19 pandemic are India’s “untouchables,” the Dalits. As a group they remain among the most downtrodden in India, with a disproportionate number of Dalits confined to mostly menial and low-paying jobs like construction work, or as janitors or tanners.

As a scholar of contemporary Indian politics who has written extensively about ethnic and sectarian conflict in the country, I have taken a keen interest in how the pandemic has hit India along caste lines.

Dalits have proved to be especially vulnerable to the disease for a range of reasons, chief among them poverty. The vast majority of Dalits are poor despite a vast affirmative action program that India put in place shortly after independence.

Consequently, even under the best of circumstances they have limited access to health care and any other form of social protection. During the pandemic their plight has only worsened.

Dalits are in large part casual laborers, often working in disparate parts of India far away from their homes. As a result, many found themselves stranded away from their families when Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown on March 23 – giving only four hours’ warning.

Migrant workers arriving from Mumbai waiting to board a local passenger train to Danapur station. Photo by Santosh Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The Indian press has carried heartbreaking accounts of their struggles to return home. One photo, of a migrant worker crying by the roadside in Delhi as he tries to visit his dying son during the lockdown, has become a lasting image of the crisis.

Being a migrant worker in India, regardless of caste background, is a tough existence. Working conditions are harsh, the work often hazardous and pay mostly a pittance. Most migrants live in slum-like conditions, at the mercy of callous landlords. Even so, many send a large proportion of their earnings home to their families.

As a result, migrant workers rarely, if ever, have any meaningful savings that could enable them to tide over unexpected financial woes like the total economic shutdown of the coronavirus pandemic. This has meant scarce resources to pay for transportation home. Even money to recharge phones is hard to come by, cutting off communication between migrant workers and loved ones during the crisis.

Shunned by community

Dalit migrant workers face an additional burden during the pandemic: social ostracism by higher caste members, even those in the same occupation as themselves.

The shunning of Dalits has not abated during this crisis. If anything, it has worsened, with some high-ranking members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party openly blaming the Dalits for spreading the coronavirus.

On May 25, the chief minister of populous Uttar Pradesh state, Yogi Adityanath, who is also a Hindu priest, suggested that migrant workers returning to his state were carriers of COVID-19, adding that the bulk of them were Dalits.

Opposition leaders were swift to condemn Adityanath’s remarks, but Modi and his national government have maintained a deafening silence on the subject.

As a result of such rhetoric, Dalit migrants trekking home – often on foot – can expect little by way of comfort or assistance from others because of their caste status and fears that they may be infected with the coronavirus.

I fear that in the immediate future, Dalits can expect little relief. To date they have received only minimal assistance from the government.

Five years ago, when Modi first swept into power, many Dalits believed his promises to uplift the country’s poor and duly voted for him. However, after the divisive leadership of his first term in office and their experience in the lockdown, many Dalits are now disillusioned with him and his Bharatiya Janata Party.

The coronavirus pandemic has underscored that India’s caste system is still very much in existence. In the eyes of many Indians, Dalits remain “untouchable” in a way that extends beyond current hygiene practices.

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1918 FLU PANDEMIC KILLED 12 MILLION INDIANS, AND BRITISH OVERLORDS’ INDIFFERENCE STRENGTHENED THE ANTI-COLONIAL MOVEMENT

Cremation on the banks of the Ganges river, India.
Keystone-France via Getty Images

Maura Chhun, Metropolitan State University

In India, during the 1918 influenza pandemic, a staggering 12 to 13 million people died, the vast majority between the months of September and December. According to an eyewitness, “There was none to remove the dead bodies and the jackals made a feast.”

At the time of the pandemic, India had been under British colonial rule for over 150 years. The fortunes of the British colonizers had always been vastly different from those of the Indian people, and nowhere was the split more stark than during the influenza pandemic, as I discovered while researching my Ph.D. on the subject.

The resulting devastation would eventually lead to huge changes in India – and the British Empire.

From Kansas to Mumbai

Although it is commonly called the Spanish flu, the 1918 pandemic likely began in Kansas and killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide.

During the early months of 1918, the virus incubated throughout the American Midwest, eventually making its way east, where it traveled across the Atlantic Ocean with soldiers deploying for WWI.

Indian soldiers in the trenches during World War I.
Print Collector / Contributor via Getty Images

Introduced into the trenches on Europe’s Western Front, the virus tore through the already weakened troops. As the war approached its conclusion, the virus followed both commercial shipping routes and military transports to infect almost every corner of the globe. It arrived in Mumbai in late May.

Unequal spread

When the first wave of the pandemic arrived, it was not particularly deadly. The only notice British officials took of it was its effect on some workers. A report noted, “As the season for cutting grass began … people were so weak as to be unable to do a full day’s work.”

By September, the story began to change. Mumbai was still the center of infection, likely due to its position as a commercial and civic hub. On Sept. 19, an English-language newspaper reported 293 influenza deaths had occurred there, but assured its readers “The worst is now reached.”

Instead, the virus tore through the subcontinent, following trade and postal routes. Catastrophe and death overwhelmed cities and rural villages alike. Indian newspapers reported that crematoria were receiving between 150 to 200 bodies per day. According to one observer, “The burning ghats and burial grounds were literally swamped with corpses; whilst an even greater number awaited removal.”

Members of the British Raj out for a stroll, circa 1918.
Fox Photos/Stringer via Getty images

But influenza did not strike everyone equally. Most British people in India lived in spacious houses with gardens and yards, compared to the lower classes of city-dwelling Indians, who lived in densely populated areas. Many British also employed household staff to care for them – in times of health and sickness – so they were only lightly touched by the pandemic and were largely unconcerned by the chaos sweeping through the country.

In his official correspondence in early December, the Lieutenant Governor of the United Provinces did not even mention influenza, instead noting “Everything is very dry; but I managed to get two hundred couple of snipe so far this season.”

While the pandemic was of little consequence to many British residents of India, the perception was wildly different among the Indian people, who spoke of universal devastation. A letter published in a periodical lamented, “India perhaps never saw such hard times before. There is wailing on all sides. … There is neither village nor town throughout the length and breadth of the country which has not paid a heavy toll.”

Elsewhere, the Sanitary Commissioner of the Punjab noted, “the streets and lanes of cities were littered with dead and dying people … nearly every household was lamenting a death, and everywhere terror and confusion reigned.”

The fallout

In the end, areas in the north and west of India saw death rates between 4.5% and 6% of their total populations, while the south and east – where the virus arrived slightly later, as it was waning – generally lost between 1.5% and 3%.

Geography wasn’t the only dividing factor, however. In Mumbai, almost seven-and-a-half times as many lower-caste Indians died as compared to their British counterparts – 61.6 per thousand versus 8.3 per thousand.

Among Indians in Mumbai, socioeconomic disparities in addition to race accounted for these differing mortality rates.

The Health Officer for Calcutta remarked on the stark difference in death rates between British and lower-class Indians: “The excessive mortality in Kidderpore appears to be due mainly to the large coolie population, ignorant and poverty-stricken, living under most insanitary conditions in damp, dark, dirty huts. They are a difficult class to deal with.”

Change ahead

Death tolls across India generally hit their peak in October, with a slow tapering into November and December. A high ranking British official wrote in December, “A good winter rain will put everything right and … things will gradually rectify themselves.”

Normalcy, however, did not quite return to India. The spring of 1919 would see the British atrocities at Amritsar and shortly thereafter the launch of Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement. Influenza became one more example of British injustice that spurred Indian people on in their fight for independence. A periodical published by the human rights activist Mahatma Gandhi stated, “In no other civilized country could a government have left things so much undone as did the Government of India did during the prevalence of such a terrible and catastrophic epidemic.”

The long, slow death of the British Empire had begun.

[Insight, in your inbox each day. You can get it with The Conversation’s email newsletter.]The Conversation

Maura Chhun, Community Faculty, Metropolitan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

LISTENING TO HIS BODY CLOCK IS MY FRIEND’S ANSWER TO COVID-19

The other day I received a phone call from an old friend of mine after quite a long time. Old in the sense that we know each other for the past over four decades. But it is also in the context that he is now 102 years of age.

He has the same clarity and vigor in his voice as ever before. Good hearing and an excellent memory reflect while conversing with him. In his astute expressions, his mental alertness is still sharp.

Mr. Singh still goes for walks and waiting for the summer weather when he will hit the golf course. The testimony to his exceptional health at this senior golden age is that he does not take any of those medicines often related to old age. Cholesterol, diabetes, knee problem, etc. have bypassed him.

The secret!

It is under one medical term, called circadian rhythm. And Mr. Singh has kept it well under control with his disciplined daily regime.

A real understanding of the circadian rhythm is that all our body organs, down to their cellular levels, have body clocks working along with the brain. Together, the working of all theses body clocks is in coordination to create the circadian rhythm.

A synchronized circadian rhythm of every part of the body, especially the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain, goes well without any compromise. The entire process, when settles down to set routine is the circadian rhythm that is not only beneficial to our overall health but most important in developing a robust immune system.

The boosting of the immune system is very vital, especially when we are facing the onslaught of the COVID-19 virus. And if this body clock rhythm is not put in place or being disturbed, our health problems start kicking in along with a weak immune system.

Specialists in the field of circadian rhythm emphasize a regular and systematic pattern of good sleep, exercise, and diet. The exact timing, duration, and disciplined, healthy living day in and day out is what we need to develop a robust immune system.

Mr. Singh listens to his body clock, religiously every moment of his life. Talking to him has always been very meaningful and knowledgeable.

One of these days, when this social-distancing restraint is over, I’m going to meet him. It certainly would be an inspirational meeting as well as to revive our chess sessions with a glass of Scotch on the side, that he still enjoys every day.

By Promod Puri

 

INDIA AND CORONAVIRUS: LACK OF ACCESS TO HANDWASHING FACILITIES AMONG POOR MAKES FIGHT EVEN HARDER

Christophe Z Guilmoto, Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) and Thomas Licart, Université de Strasbourg

India introduced a national lockdown on March 24 hoping to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. As April 2020 begins, the country has registered over 1,500 cases of COVID-19, the disease associated with the new coronavirus, according to the latest data available.

These numbers translate into surprisingly low prevalence rates compared to the rest of the world due to the delayed arrival of the virus. But it is possible the scenario could get much worse, while experts are warning that India is at grave risk notably due of the vulnerability of its health system.

Personal hygiene and more specifically handwashing practices have come under scrutiny as millions of India’s poorest do not have access to basic amenities. We are social demographers and have specifically investigated the data about handwashing practices in India for this article.

In India, research has shown how good hand hygiene reduces the risk of diarrhoea, pneumonia, or stunting – prime factors of high infant and child mortality.

Unfortunately the focus on handwashing was not included in the large Swachh Bharat Mission, or Clean India programme, launched in 2014. The spread of the coronavirus has brought back this issue to the fore as hand hygiene is one of the easiest ways to avoid both catching and spreading the virus.

While the Swachh Bharat mission addressed the issue of open defecation, it did not specifically focus on handwashing practices. Mumbai, October 2, 2017.
Indranil Mukerjee/AFP

Hand hygiene in India

There is a debate about the reliability of surveys on handwashing and how statistics are captured. According to a national survey in 2011-12, 63% of households reported usually washing their hands with soap after defecation, a low figure for a country where toilet paper is rarely used.

More recent research conducted in India has, however, shown that the most reliable statistics about hygiene practices are derived from an environmental check in which fieldworkers inspect the house for the presence of a water source with soap where people wash their hands.

This is how information was collated in India’s last national demographic survey coordinated by the International Institute for Population Sciences in 2015-16, from where the data for this study was drawn. It found that 39.8% of households had no soap or no water, a situation often explained by the absence of soap during the survey.

Huge geographical variations

India’s proportion of households without soap or water is lower than the 71.4% of people in Bangladesh or 52.9% in Nepal lacking such amenities. But Indian households fared worse than Pakistan (31.4%) or Myanmar (16.4%) during the same period.

When the data is broken down, we found that 20% of households in urban areas, where access to running water is more common, had no handwashing facilities, compared to 51% in rural areas. Regional disparities are even wider: ranging from below 10% in Delhi to above 60% in the entire state of Odisha. As the map below shows, the best hand hygiene can be found in Northwest India, in coastal Western India, as well as in many states of the Northeast. In contrast, districts where handwashing facilities are the least common are clustered around Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand.

Regional disparities in handwashing practices in India.
C.Z. Guilmoto, T. Licart, Author provided

The map also highlights another pocket of poor hand hygiene in the more developed Tamil Nadu state in southern India. In fact, while spatial patterns of hygiene are very pronounced, the map of lower use of soap and water does not exactly correspond to the least developed regions of India.

Socioeconomic inequalities

Our research also looked at social and economic characteristics of households. We found that only 4% of the richest households didn’t have handwashing facilities, compared to 80% of the poorest households. The worst levels of hand hygiene were observed in houses with an absence of toilet facilities (64%) or in illiterate families (68%).

Hand hygiene compare with social and economic characteristics of the families surveyed.
C.Z. Guilmoto, T. Licart, Author provided

The implications of these inequalities may be considerable for the transmission of the disease within the country and the impact on vulnerable groups.

Labourers, maids, cooks, drivers, daily wagers, people working in small businesses in towns and cities are now losing their livelihoods. With no economic plans to support them, they are going back home generating the largest sudden migration India has seen since Partition in 1947.

A reverse migration is taking place in India.

Very soon they may carry COVID-19 back to their neighbourhoods and native villages and transmit the virus further across the country. The situation is particularly worrying in households composed only of old people above 65 years, with less than half of them having access to soap and water.

The benefits of handwashing in India extend well beyond the coronavirus since it reduces the spread of pathogens of all types. In 2017, researchers estimated the annual net costs to India from not handwashing were US$23 billion, stressing the considerable gains relating to decreases in diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection for India from behavioural changes. Local initiatives have already emerged to encourage the population to wash hands frequently.

Promotion of handwashing in India.

Experts also point out that although handwashing should be more widespread, lack of access to water – particularly clean water – in India may be another challenge for the poorest communities to protect themselves from coronavirus.

In this context, handwashing campaigns during the crisis will be crucial for public health in India – alongside an increase in access to basic amenities for all.The Conversation

Christophe Z Guilmoto, Senior fellow in demography, Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) and Thomas Licart, Doctorant, démographie, Université de Strasbourg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Internet: A Platform for both false and true information

By Promod Puri

Education does not stop after school, college, or university studies. Rather it continues. Pursuing knowledge in the fields already studied along with new interests of learning is part of lifelong schooling.

As formal education ends in the early part of life, the journey to explore and gain knowledge goes on. At the same time, knowledge itself keeps expanding.  Once the learning drive starts there is no stop on the knowledge track.

However, knowledge has to be followed intelligently and with an open mind.

Its credibility and perception are based on truth and rationales. As our continuing education advances, it generates new studies, thoughts, theories, meanings, and interpretations. With that growth, knowledge gets enriched.

We are the seekers of knowledge as well as its creator, developer, and distributor.

It is at this helm that we can discern its traditional outlets, like books and libraries, newspapers and magazines, radio, and television, etc. However, these sources are being outpaced and outdated by the surge in the internet and social media.

And this is where we alert ourselves to establish the authenticity and credibility of knowledge attained from online sources. It can prove itself to be wrong and deceptive when produced and shared thru various internet channels.

The buzz word lately is the generation of fake news or information and its circulation.

Google, Emails, Twitter, Facebook, and myriad of websites, etc. are the vehicles moved by our fingertips for mass distribution of news, views, and learnings along with fake stories and misinformation. In the latter case production of such material is so professionally done that unreal casts into real. Believability is established, and its mass circulation starts rolling.

The production of fake news, besides posing a serious threat to bona fide information and knowledge, is a lucrative business as well. When a fabricated story gets viral on search engines like Google and social media like Facebook, it generates money for fake news manufacturers. The “clicks” and “shares” are the measuring indicators in the booms of this illicit business.

Since the blight of fake news is going to be part of knowledge gathering, the acceptance or rejection of pseudo or genuine information depends on our sensitivity and perception, empathy or apathy. Our personal preferences also play a determining role to keep us informed or misinformed while we seek knowledge.

Usually, we select only that information that fits well within our interests, mindset biases, and beliefs.

The production of fake or false news or information, or creation of a thought, an ideology or a campaign, and its spread covers most topics and issues from politics to religion and culture, sciences to medicines, and economics to statistics, etc.

Fabricated information supporting a concept, cult, crusade of morally-revolting motives not only contaminate true knowledge but it is misleading and sinister as well. As of consequence, information literacy is corrupted.

When a fake story or picture on the internet and its various outlets is released, its authenticity is seldom doubted especially by those readers who share its viewpoint.

Professional “gatekeepers” like editors of newspapers or magazines, who reject, allow, or edit an incoming news story or some viewpoints in the traditional institutions, are not the norms in the receiving and delivery systems of the information technology.

Our temperaments, beliefs and even our personal motives are now the “gatekeepers” in the selection and sharing of information. When these attitudes are constantly and willingly being exposed to fake information or stories, fanaticism is created, consolidated, and validated. Convictions and extreme beliefs keep the doors of truth and rationality close.

DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM

Despite this inevitable abuse of the system, the internet provides us a democratic platform that was till now monopolized by the traditional print and electronic media. Social media are open, free, and readily available along with a profusion of websites for the dissemination of information, true or false, and viewpoint, rational or irrational.

The phenomenon has led to the explosion of knowledge in its creation, presentation, and sharing. This is not anymore the domain of only professional writers, intellectuals, publishers, or editors.

The Internet and online social media offer the space to express oneself in few words or in lengthy essays without editing or cuts and censorship. A submission, rejected by conventional book publishers, newspapers, or magazine editors, finds easy alternative outlets through various internet channels and online self-publishing with much wider exposure.

Unlike the traditional sources of knowledge, the net in its brief history has spread itself into a vast field covered with mounds of information and knowledge. Personally speaking, I wrote “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, and Traditions” by just going thru the medium of the internet carrying a wealth of relevant articles, research papers, manuscripts, scriptures, and stories.

Numerous reputed and credible websites like Wikipedia are loaded with extensive knowledge to do research, study or write on any subject of interest.

The internet has liberated knowledge for its easy reach and attainment. But in this endeavor, Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw advises: “beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance”.

(Promod Puri is Vancouver, Canada-based writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.blogspot.com).

MINDSET IS NOT A FLEXIBLE ATTITUDE, but it can be

By Promod Puri

Distorted, false, or unrealistic information twist our thinking. As of result, our perceptions are flawed.

Endeavoring for the true nature of things helps brain circuits to function naturally in the evolution of a sound and conscientious or attentive mind.

Human brains are built for sophisticated and complex activity. It is in this role and treatment that logical and well-grounded thinking can be fostered.

In addition to that, our simple thinking processes play a significant role in invigorated and stimulating brain functioning. These simple functions involve self-discerning and grasping of ordinary tasks and their executions.

In the contemporary tech and virtual world, most of the very basic thinking processes can be taken over by gadgets. For example, Roomba, the cleaning robot, or Alexa, Amazon’s cyber info help. Or when we google to retrieve a word sitting at the tip of the tongue, instead of exercising the brain to do the recall.

With these gizmos and “hey google” help services, in our day-to-day activities, there is likely little left for our brains to do.

Keeping our brains active by doing easy tasks along with the gathering of authentic and honest information and knowledge can help in forming rational and sound opinions and judgments.

Conceived opinions and judgments influence our mindset viewpoint. And most of the time, our actions and reactions are based on retrieving the intellect from the installed position.

Mindset basically means pre-set assumptions or beliefs that are ready to be applied without or with the least entry of new inference or reasoning to a situation or issue. It is a predisposed state of mind, a psychological construct that can be rigid or subject to change.

In a world where our social, political, and religious preferences become our mindset views, this outlook must be created only by logical and judicious approaches. With that rational infusion, the mindset discernment resides well in our intellectual senses that are not compromised by false information.

POLITICAL MINDSET

In politics, mindset views are often generated thru an efficient propaganda assembly line. For example, the mindset impression is that Cubans are well taken care of, happy, and enjoy the fundamental freedoms under the Communist regime. But the ground realities are different. Over 50 years of being in power, Fidel Castro was successful in converting false information and claims to be accurate within Cuba and the world. A period of half-century is enough to impact the genetics of mindset behavior as repeated lies appear honest.

The situation in Venezuela under the dictatorial rules of late Hugo Chavez and now Nicoles Maduro is no different. Appalling living conditions in the country have forced many poor Venezuelans fleeing to neighboring nations like Columbia. But the Leftist minds don’t accept a breakdown of the system reported even thru the eye of the independent media.

What exactly is going on in Putin’s Russia or Xi Jinping’s China is not transparent. In the coverup, what comes out is the processed news that feeds the mindset views globally. In the authoritarian and autocrat regimes, propagated indoctrination is a crucial part of the regulated strategies.

The myth of overall happiness and contentment not only prevails in the Left or Communist domains involved in brainwashing their own peoples, and the rest of the world. Established democracies also indulge in forming mindset thinking in public thru disinformation, hype, and publicity. In a democratic setup, the Left and Right political commitments are quite conspicuous as “Red and Blue” mindsets.

We can recognize no political system is perfect for producing the results the public wants for its peace and welfare. And even if the systems are ideal in principle, their execution is subject to the manner these are manipulated by the leaderships and received by the societies.  Still, the mindset convictions are groomed in both the socialist and capitalist structures. The implantation is manifested in all the political ideologies and their running systems.

The political Left-Right binaries seem to be eternal.  These binaries reside well in the ideological mindset status quo of socialism and capitalism while the world is getting more integrated through the development of the internet and social media.

In the contemporary world, production and reproduction of fact-based information and knowledge should impact our mindset political views. But this is not happening. Rather extremes of Left-Right scenario we often observed across the globe give a fair assessment of how templated attitude stagnates political thinking.

Left and Right commitments have become our political deadends. We’re not taking the humanistic pathway either where we can set our minds nourished in ethical convictions.

FAITH-BASED MINDSET

In the realm of religion, most people do not read the fundamentals of scriptures. They gather their religious knowledge or information, not from the revered books. Preferably that is delivered thru the third party, mostly the priest class. The education or learning we receive can be biased or prejudice. But this is where the mindset views are embedded that often stay lifelong or even passed on to the next generation.

In the mindset commitments, both theists and atheists are firm on their radical views if god exists or does not. Over the centuries, both have struck themselves with the myth or non-myth of god. In this approach, separate isms have emerged as atheism and theism. And where the former has a more committed mindset in denouncing the latter rather than putting forward its own non-theist agenda.

Nonetheless, atheism and theism have not gone much further in creating a logical understanding of the natural-world or God.

We often debate that God was self-created, or He is just an imaginative creation of man. But that should not be an issue either. The rational non-set contemporary mind would welcome re-inventing the institution of God.

In this exercise, seeking the practicality of God in its moral-based messages is more acceptable rather than a non-visible physical image residing up there, somewhere.

But we do not want to disturb the status quo of mind struck more in His physical existence rather than seeking His active involvement in our lives.

SOCIAL MINDSET

In social behavior, too, people with mindset attitudes related to race, class, or caste do not think outside the box. The discriminatory behavior toward fellow human beings constitutes the worst kind of mindset attitude practiced all over the world.

The centuries-old caste system in the Indian sub-continent is a humiliating mindset practice by the upper caste against the lower caste members of the society. As a result, prejudices are formed that remain firm as a usual way of life.

Sufi poet-philosopher Baba Bulleh Shah touched on the subject of a social mindset. He stressed for a diligent read and review the mindset behavior that impacts the individual and the society one belongs to.

He says: Parh parh Alam te faazil hoya
Te kaday apnay aap nu parhya ee na.

Translation: one reads a lot to become a scholar and all knowledgeable, yet fails to ever read oneself.

MINDSET ATTITUDE IN MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGES

Another aspect of mindset attitude lies in the popular motivational messages we often come across in social media like Facebook.

For example, the catchy phrase we often hear these days is “be positive.” Precisely, we’re advised to have a positive mindset. But a rational mindset can have a negative or positive outlook as well. It depends upon the outside factors that can be controlled, or maybe not.

“Be positive” is quite a motivational message. But its acceptance and preservation are to be based on realistic recognition of the facts.

The expected positive results from the “be-positive” attitude, in most cases, do not come automatically. For that outcome, the “be-positive” sentiment needs to be fed by willpower. And the latter is attained through strong character built over time with moral commitments.

The “be-positive” stay requires patience. That wait can turn out to be negative too. Of course, we can’t be advised: “be negative.” But this advisory relates to caution or apprehension about things we face or undertake.

A positive or negative attitude is subject to change as nothing is permanent in this world. Realities are a changing phenomenon. Their adjustments are a reality too.

And if the mindset is not exposed to the existing or developing realities, with our cemented views, we soon face a concrete dead end.

FIXED AND FLEXIBLE MINDSET

People, who are adamant with fixed mindset views of issues facing them personally or the society they live in, are trapped in their sealed intelligence. While the world out there is changing. Moreover, Political, religious, and social or cultural fanaticism are the results of mindset biases.

A fixed mindset tends to be wired, plugged in, and acts in default mode.

But in principle, mindset is not a settled term. Instead, it is flexible. It can be allowed as a growth mechanism in our cognitive senses. Pope Francis is one example of a changing mindset towards a more rational and contemporary approach towards issues facing the Roman Catholic Church.

Our set views based on beliefs or assumptions, self-introduced or by others, need to be reviewed for their acceptability and pragmatics. That way, mindset creates a powerful incentive based on rational factors in the changing real world.

 

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My 2020 Vision:

A peaceful world

No poverty

Respect for human rights

Welcome refugees.

-Promod Puri

Besides Vancouver’s Alluring Image It’s Also A City of Homelessness

By Promod Puri

“Canada is the best country in the world.” Alongside Vancouver prides itself with 1st, 2nd, or 3rd standing as the “most liveable place.” But underneath all these rewarding certifications, there are visible sites that take away some appeal from Vancouver’s alluring image.

The fast-developing metro, with its massive and lavish highrises, is also the home of homeless people. They mostly dwell under the very shadow of its thriving and affluent downtown core.

According to the latest figures, over 2200 people have been counted who don’t have shelter to live and sleep. The situation is more pathetic and deplorable in the harsh cold and rainy months of Vancouver.

Out of these numbers, as per the recent survey by the City, 23 percent are women and teenage girls. The same is the percentage of people who are 55 years of age or older.

The homelessness problem can be realized in the context of Vancouver’s chronic rental housing shortage. Poverty and homelessness go together. With small income or very low-income, affordable housing is just impossible to find.

Sidewalks, parks, and back alleys are the shelters places. Another accessible site for these destitute people in the front entrances of stores the moment their shutters are down at night. Cardboards are often the material for their makeshift dwellings. A few lucky ones carry tents.

Poor health with weather-related ailments is the result when these indigent souls are down with flu and pneumonia, etc. Then there is a mental issue as well.

Poverty and homelessness are the afflictions that go along with Vancouver’s worldwide reputation as the “most liveable city.” But not for these poor folks.

WHO KNOWS!

I’ve heard, you’ve heard:

“Humans beings are the most
Intelligent and favorite
Creation of God.”

Birds, cats, dogs, donkeys…..
Probably think equal as well.

Trees, plants, and flowers
Likely hold the same pride too.

Who knows!

He Knows
May be maybe not.

Who knows!

-by Promod Puri

 

Kudos to Gambia Seeking Justice For Myanmar Muslims

By Promod Puri

Hats off to the Republic of The Gambia, one of the world’s smallest countries in West Africa, who launched proceedings against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the latter’s crimes and genocide of its Muslim population.

Most influential nations in the world who champion the cause of human rights, including Canada, have never thought of going to the ICJ to seek justice for the Myanmar Muslims. The Gambia government must be applauded for this initiative.

The Gambia brought the case against the Myanmar government led by Noble Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. She is defending her country before the International Court in The Hague, where three-day proceedings began December 10.

The Gambia is asking the court to order Myanmar to bar ongoing atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims, averting further irreparable harm.

The case focuses on the clearance operations carried out since October 2016 by Myanmar’s military rulers against the Rohingya Muslims. It is a distinct ethnic and religious community group that resides primarily in the Rakhine state.

These operations amounted to a genocidal campaign of violence that included mass murder, forcible displacement, rape, and other forms of sexual abuse. UN investigators say as many as 10,000 Rohingya – a Muslim minority in this Buddhist-majority nation – were killed. Over 742,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since 2017, joining 300,000 Rohingya who had previously fled oppression in Myanmar. They are living in dire conditions in the refugee camps.

In defending her government and the military junta, Peace Nobelist Aung San Suu Kyi told the court the case against Myanmar is “incomplete and incorrect.” And that it is an “internal armed conflict.”

Ms. Suu Kyi was once an international celebrity who was an icon for the cause of democracy. Now she is a de facto ruler of Myanmar serving her military bosses who kept her under house arrest for many years.

Ms. Suu Kyi was bestowed with honorary Canadian citizenship in October 2007 for being a champion of democracy for her nation. But considering her total denial of military violence against the Rohingya Muslims, she was stripped of her honorary Canadian citizenship in October 2018.

 

Politics Of Left And Right Are Not The Solutions To Tackle Rape Problem

The four suspects in the Hyderabad rape case have been killed by the police. Most people, including the parents of the victim, applaud the police action. Justice has been delivered, and the case closed.

But in the mindset of Left and Right ideological thinking, binaries are being created about the role of police in killing the alleged suspects.

Were the police right in their killings, or they were wrong? Political Left, with its intellectual leaning, believes it was wrong, and let the system take over to deliver its judgment.

The political Right cheers the police action that justice is not delayed as far as the victim’s family is concerned.

In India’s case, I would accept this kind of quick “street justice,” where the judicial system and the bureaucracy run on its own stagnant pace. Otherwise, the victims and the families suffer and go thru torturous times. For example, it is the case of a rape victim in UP who was severely burnt and dies just a few days ago while on her way to the court to expect some justice.

Justice in the country is beyond the proverbial case of “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Here it is seldom delivered in the rape and violence cases against women. And if it is given, it is rarely executed. The accused people, who were sentenced to death in the 2012 Joyti Singh rape and murder in Delhi still go unpunished. And the heinous case of minor Asifa Banu, the culprit, a Hindu temple priest, it is totally off the radar.

“Justice” by the police is not the right thing to do in a democratic setup. But if the judicial system fails, this is the way to see justice in India that gives solace to both the victims and the families.

However, that is not the way either where the police are corrupt and can’t be trusted. And so is the present judicious system. What to do?

Politicizing the rape issue with Left and Right ideological commitments often emerge. In this political mix-up, headlines make the scene. Speeches and statements drum up. Anger, frustrations, and emotions ventilated. Slogans are raised, “hang them, shoot them.” Protests are organized, candles are lit. Articles are written, and poetry composed. Social media is flooded with outrage. And a lot more expressed, discussed, and debated.

Meaningful but helpless expressions become just rituals. Continue for a few days, remains dormant, and then come back when another news of national shame breaks out. The cycle is renewed and rerun.

In its response, can the nation go beyond this emotional and enraged cry with political overtones of the Left and the Right mindset thinking?

The ideological politics is not the solution to tackle pressing social issues of rape and violence against India’s women, but let science, professionalism, and realities take over.

Who are rapists? Medical and psychological investigations can reveal the symptoms of behavior disorder of sex offenders. It is an escalating disease.

The seriousness of the disease and its spread must be of utmost concern for the nation’s medical community, especially in the faculty of psychology and related faculties, along with social scientists to deliberate on all aspects of the rape issues.

After all, it is not only the women who are raped, but in the developing rape culture, the entire nation is the victim too.

-By Promod Puri

 

 

Applaud Or Condemn The “Police Justice” In India?

The four suspects in the Hyderabad rape case have been killed by the police. Most people, including the parents of the victim, applaud the police action. Justice delivered. Quick, the case closed.

In the Indian context, I would accept this kind of quick “street justice”, where otherwise the judicious system and the bureaucracy run with its stagnant pace while the victims and the families suffer and go thru torturous times. The case in point is the severe burning of a rape victim in U.P. a few days ago while going to the court to seek justice.

Justice in the country is beyond the proverbial statement of “Justice delayed is justice denied”. Here it is seldom delivered in the rape and violence incidents against women. And if it is delivered, it is rarely executed. The accused people, who were sentenced to death in the 2012 Joyti Singh rape and murder in Delhi still go unpunished.

“Justice” by the police is not the right thing to do in a democratic setup, but if the system fails, this is the way to see justice in India which gives solace to both the victims and the families.

But that is not the way either where the police are corrupt and can’t be trusted. And so is the present judicious system. What to do?

-Promod Puri

Tackling Rape Problem By Going Beyond Candle-lit Vigils and Protests

By Promod Puri

It’s a disgraceful societal evil that has not begun targeting in any realistic and practical way how to kill the rapist beast that lurks everywhere in India, ready to pounce on the female at any given opportunity!

Priyanka Reddy, Asifa Banu, Jyoti Singh, and hundreds perhaps thousands more became victims or going to be next: now, today or tomorrow.

Headlines make the scene. Speeches and statements drum up. Anger, frustrations, and emotions ventilated. Slogans are raised, “hang them, shoot them.” Protests are organized, candles are lit. Articles are written, rewritten, poetry composed. Social media is flooded with outrage. And a lot more expressed, discussed, and debated.

Meaningful but helpless expressions become just rituals. Continue for a few days, remains dormant, and then come back when another news of national shame breaks out. The cycle is renewed and rerun.

In its response, can the nation go beyond this emotional and enraged cry?

The hungry sex devils don’t care and are immune to all the public outbursts. During the barbaric moments, the evil lust dominates and erases any civility, morals, or even the laws against the vulturous acts of violence and rape. There is no fear and shame for them in society or their own families.

That is the reality which transfers a man, a teenager from being a human to a beast.

They are diseased with a behavior disorder. The syndrome erupts with an uncontrolled desire to grapple the victim, molest, and burnt alive. In those horrifying moments, the unconstrained sensual appetite supersedes the society’s protests and the legal punishments, including hanging. Their mental faculties are deranged. The aftermath consequences do not matter.

The civil society’s sentiments and strict legal statues do have impact and solace for the victims and their families. But this is a disease that can’t be controlled by candles, protests, poetry, prose, and punishments.

Who are rapists? Medical and psychological investigations can reveal the symptoms of the disease to determine the profile of a rapist.

The seriousness of the disease and its escalating spread must be of utmost concern for the nation’s medical community, especially in the faculty of psychology and related faculties, along with social scientists to deliberate on all aspects of the rape issues.

After all, it is not only the women who are raped but in the developing rape culture, the entire nation is a victim too.

(Promod Puri is a writer, journalist and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs. And Traditions.)

Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com

 

ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE: I’M THE CAUSE, I’M THE CURE

By Promod Puri

I’m often bewildered if the flood of climate campaigns and protests worldwide is proceeding in the pertinent direction, hitting the key target causing the environmental damage.

In fact, that overlooked and evading target is me, along with most of us. Seriously!

I’m the one, despite being aware of the deteriorating environment, is contributing significantly to its global degeneration. Rather I’m the root cause. I’m the one who is creating demand for goods and services; cheap and in abundance.

But I blame big businesses, manufacturers, and industrialists in the capitalist community for their greed and irresponsible practices causing the escalating global catastrophe.

I’m the one shouting at the world leaders that they are not taking responsibility. I’m the one telling the conservative folks that they are ignorant and don’t understand the science of the environment.

I’m part of the worldwide cry that enough is not being done.

That is the image I have, or I’m creating for myself, that environment is my greatest concern. But privately, I indulge myself in everything which generates the cause but doesn’t accept the consequence. Both the cause and the consequence apply to “we human beings.” But not me.

I also realize my collective responsibility towards a cleaner environment.

Personally, I do everything contributing to environmental deterioration. I have a firm mindset. What I’m doing is just a drop, and that it does not matter.

My eating habits, my buying habits, my social habits remain intact. But while out on the street and on social media, I’m an environmentalist.

I do know that earth is warming up, seas are rising, and glaciers are melting. As a result, some island countries are soon going to be submerged in their surrounding oceans. The coastlines are being eroded.

Although I do not understand what the guarantees in the business of carbon reduction mean, how does it work, and how it is traded or manipulated. But I do support net-zero carbon-emissions goals.

I’m quite aware of the fact that the international political community has been producing, year after year, tons of environmental accords that do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But at the same time, these lofty resolutions and goals are non-binding. They are easy to get in and easy to get out. And I notice all these conventional wrangles at the global climate actions summits.

In my socialist outfit, I demand zero economic growth where we could stop our economy from growing endlessly, we could stop endless increases in our consumption of resources, and we could take some of the pressure off the environment.

My social attachments and lifestyle conflict with my environmental responsibilities and accountabilities. In a culture of accumulation where the choices galore, the shopping spree is an indulgence. The closets are overflowing, the kitchen cabinets, the refrigerators are loaded, the garage is a big storage container. Getting bargains is a pride achievement of shopping loot.

In this environment of amassment for every need or no need, the industry is ready to flood the market with goods. Otherwise, who would care to buy a banana hanger?

I move on to creating my own environmental footprints. At the same time, I’m kicking those who pollute the planet earth. I do realize environmental cleaning has to start from where it begins.

I’m the cause, I’m the cure.

————

 

LIGHT ON TWEEZERS

by Promod Puri

We are quite familiar with tweezers, the small nippers for plucking out unwanted hairs or extracting splinters.

But when these little tools are made of light beams to hold very tiny objects in scientific and medical fields, the optical tweezers play quite a significant role as technical aids in the studies of motions and behavior of molecular or cellular particles.

That precisely the reason the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to Arthur Ashkin for his works on optical tweezers.

Other co-winners of the Nobel Prize in physics are Gerard Mourou and Canadian scientist Donna Strickland for creating the technology which generates high-intensity, ultra-short laser pulses, which are used for eye surgeries and for studies of the extremely fast phenomenon in the atomic domain.

Light is more than making things visible. It is also a force. When applied to a physical object it is called radiation pressure. In this application, a coherent beam of light known as the laser is focussed on the object. An optical tweezer is created by two laser beams coming from the opposite direction and falling on the object.

“In 1969, Arthur Ashkin used lasers to trap and accelerate micron-sized objects such as tiny spheres and water droplets. This led to the invention of optical tweezers that use two or more focused laser beams aimed in opposite directions to attract a target particle or cell toward the center of the beams and hold it in place. Each time the particle moves away from the center, it encounters a force pushing it back toward the center”, explains Todd Adams, Professor of Physics, Florida State University, in his article in The Conversation.

While the Nobel recognized the works of optical tweezers by Ashkin, the development of other optical tools from light beams also has an important contribution to generating high-intensity and ultra-short laser pulses. These intensified bursts of light are now the tools for eye surgeries. The pioneer works of Mourou and Strickland in developing these tools have earned them the Nobel Prize.

The two physicists invented the way to create intense light but for the extremely small duration. These are bursts or pulses of light of ultra-short duration in an attosecond, which is trillionth of a second.

“As an analogy, consider a thick rubber band. When the band is stretched, the rubber becomes thinner. When it is released, it returns to its original thickness. Now imagine that there is a way to make the stretched rubber band thicker. When the band is released, it will end up thicker than the original band. This is essentially what happens with the laser pulse”, writes Professor Adams.

The thicker or high-intensity laser bursts are used in eye surgeries and for studying ultra-fast activities at the atomic levels.

“The 2018 Nobel Prize in physics shines a light on the pioneering work of these three scientists. Over the past three decades, their inventions have created avenues of science and medical treatments that were previously unattainable”, Professor Adams concludes in his article.

British troops massacred Indians in Amritsar – and a century later, there’s been no official apology

Jallianwala Bagh, in Amritsar, India, where hundreds were killed on April 13, 1919, under British colonial rule. AP Photo/Prabhjot Gill

Sumit Ganguly, Indiana University

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently visited the site of a brutal massacre that happened in 1919 under the British colonial rule in India and offered his personal apologies. He expressed his “deep sense of grief” for a “terrible atrocity.”

Earlier in April, then U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that the episode was “a shameful scar on British-Indian history.” However, she had stopped short of apologizing.

The massacre is still remembered in India as a symbol of colonial cruelty. Here’s what happened a hundred years ago.

Killing unarmed protesters

After World War I, the British, who controlled a vast empire in India, agreed to give Indians limited self-government due to India’s substantial contribution to the war effort.

These reforms, named the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms after the secretary of state for India and the viceroy of India, promised to lead to more substantial self-government over time.

However, around the same time the British had passed the draconian Rowlatt Acts, which allowed certain political cases to be tried without trial. And the trial was also to be conducted without juries. The acts were designed to ruthlessly suppress all forms of political dissent.

The Rowlatt Acts were designed to replace the constraints on political activity that had been embodied in colonial rules, known as the Defense of India Rules, which had been in force during World War I.

Not surprisingly, there were widespread public protests, led by the noted Indian nationalist leader, Mahatma Gandhi.

As part of this nationwide agitation, some 10,000 individuals gathered in a park in the northern Indian city of Amritsar on April 13, 1919. Since this protest was in defiance of a curfew which prohibited political gatherings, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, who was stationed in the nearby city of Jalandhar, decided to take action.

Troops under his command blocked the sole entrance to the park, called Jallianwallah Bagh. Without warning they opened fire. The British officially estimated that 379 people died. The unofficial count was more. Close to 1,200 were injured.

Dyer’s men stopped firing only after they had run out of ammunition. The soldiers did not offer any medical assistance to the wounded, and others could not come to their aid because of the imposition of a curfew on the city.

An apology long overdue

A wall of the Jallianwala Bagh, the site of the 1919 massacre, with bullet marks on it. AP Photo/Prabhjot Gill

Then viceroy of India, Lord Chelmsford, convened an inquiry commission which led to Dyer being relieved of his command. However, upon returning to the United Kingdom, he found support for his actions among a segment of the British population.

In India, there was widespread shock and horror over this wanton use of force. The Nobel Laureate in literature, Rabindranath Tagore, protested by renouncing his knighthood, which he had received from the British Crown in 1915. Writing to the viceroy, Tagore decried “the disproportionate severity of the punishment inflicted upon the unfortunate people.”

As a political scientist who has written on the impact of British colonialism on India, I believe that the legacy of this episode, along with a host of other ugly events, continues to trouble Indo-British relations.

Britain, for the most part, has failed to come to terms with its tragic colonial heritage in South Asia and elsewhere. In the wake of the the archbishop’s apology, I believe, it is time for the British government to follow suit.

An unequivocal apology to the memory of the victims is long overdue.

[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]

India must stop deforesting its mountains to fight floods

Mountains above Munnar, a hill town in Kerala, India. Santhosh Varghese / shutterstock

Gayathri D Naik, SOAS, University of London

Floods are now an annual nightmare in many parts of southern and western India. Valleys in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala that weren’t considered flood-prone until recently are at risk.

During floods and landslides in August 2019, two villages were completely destroyed killing several people, while a year earlier Kerala saw its worst floods in a century.

These floods appear to be getting more severe. Climate change is causing stronger and more erratic rainfall with recurrent floods in low-lying areas while population growth is putting more people in risky areas. And another problem comes from deforestation in the mountain range where much of the water first fell: the Western Ghats.

More than 500 people died in severe flooding in Kerala in 2018. AJP / shutterstock

The Western Ghats run for 1,600km in parallel with India’s west coast, from Gujarat right down to Tamil Nadu at the tip of the subcontinent. It is – or was – a picturesque landscape of serene valleys, steep gorges and virgin forests. Yet recurring floods and landslides in the mountains, hills and areas downstream (between the Ghats and the sea) show that India must rethink its environmental law to balance the needs of nature and humans.

The Western Ghats follow India’s western coast. Nichalp / wiki, CC BY-SA

The mountains are teeming with life. Though they cover only a small part of India’s total land area, the Ghats are home to more than 30% of the country’s species of plants, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, including both wild elephants and tigers. Its combination of unique species and habitat loss means Unesco has recognised it as one of eight global “hottest hotspots” of biodiversity.

Climate change is already having an obvious impact, with unprecedented rains in monsoon seasons and severe drought and dry rivers in summer. And as the human population has grown, people have chopped down the forests and replaced them with spice, tea, coffee and rubber plantations. Thousands of illegal stone quarries now also operate in the Ghats, where mountainsides are demolished to generate stones and sand for the construction industry. Deforestation and the use of highly destructive explosives mean these areas are prone to increased seismic tremors and landslides.

Large dams on major rivers offer renewable energy yet also raise another set of environmental problems. In Kerala, many are located in eco-sensitive parts of the Western Ghats, with some dating back to British rule. As demand for energy increases, India plans to build more dams which in turn could lead to massive deforestation and ecosystem destruction. All this makes flooding more severe, as deforestation in the catchment area of a river reduces the land’s ability to retain water.

Tea plantation on deforested land near Munnar, Kerala, in the Western Ghats. Mazur Travel / shutterstock

Whether triggered by damming, deforestation, or exacerbated by climate change, human-induced natural disasters in the region have pointed to a need for stronger environmental protection laws.

How to protect the Western Ghats

India’s 1950 constitution claims that protection of environment is a fundamental duty of every citizen, and though it does not explicitly contain a right to a clean environment, legal authority for environmental lawmaking is derived from the document.

Over the years, the country’s central government has enacted various laws that are applicable to the Western Ghats: the Environment Protection Act 1986, the Forest Conservation Act 1980, the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2002 and so on. However, these laws are not implemented efficiently, which makes me wonder if areas like the Himalayas and the Western Ghats – internationally significant ecosystems and biosphere reserves – need their own special laws.

The endangered Boulenger’s tree frog is found in the Western Ghats – and nowhere else. lensalot / shutterstock

Additionally, India’s water laws are inadequate. Existing legislation primarily focuses on pollution control, meaning the law has little to say about preventing or even managing floods which result from mismanagement of dams or too much riverside development.

The problem is enhanced in case of rivers that flow across state boundaries. Some of the major floods in the past couple years happened after dams at or near full capacity in one district or state were opened, letting water flow downstream into another area. Recently, a draft dam safety bill has been proposed to address these problems.

Similarly, discussions over climate change and environmental lawmaking should involve more grassroot level participation. For most people, poverty and earnings still matter more than climate mitigation or adaptation. Hence people’s perception should be moulded to recognise and realise how deforestation or climate change impacts their daily life.

The Western Ghats are south India’s lifeline, with millions dependent on the range either directly or indirectly. These mountains need protection. However, while new development in the region continues to be human-centric, the entire concept of nature preservation is relegated. To protect the Western Ghats, what we require is an attitude that recognises the significance of these mountains, and that will involve specific laws.

Stairs Excercise Controls Blood Sugar And For Healthy Heart

By Promod Puri

The fun in life includes some simple recreational activities in our daily life. And the one I like the most is just a few steps away as part of my every day up-and-down commute.

These are the stairs leading up to our apartment. Over the years I have done this personal “Grouse Grind” hundreds of times. Although my experience with stairs is quite extensive, still I would not call myself a stair-master.

But as a veteran of the stairs, I have learned some techniques and some dos and don’ts of going up and down. These know-hows are not meant for practicing to hike Mt. Everest, but simply to enjoy the staircase walk as physical activity. Stairs make an excellent place to get a daily dose of cardio and some belly alignment. A simple stroll up and down the stairs gives a good aerobic workout.

According to a Mayo Clinic newsletter, stair climbing helps strengthen and tone our leg muscles. It keeps our leg arteries flexible, allowing blood to move more easily. “Better blood flow in your legs equals a healthier heart and body.”

It can also burn off calories — about 65 calories in 15 minutes. Going at a faster pace or carrying heavier items can burn even more calories, according to a Mayo newsletter.

Moreover, a three-minute up and down the stairs after a meal helps control blood sugar.

They say keep a balance in life. That is true for stairs too.

In this upscale workout keeping the body in balance is essential. Tripping and slipping often happen when the body wobbles due to imbalance. Balancing exercises are quite common in the gym. A popular one is trying to balance the body on a hemisphere shaped ball. At home, one can practice balance by standing on one foot or keeping one foot in front of the other for as long as possible. Balance requires concentration. Or to be more precise it is meditation in action to coordinate mind and body.

Now on to the stairs. A brief stretching of legs, keeping a uniform pace and raising each leg almost parallel to the upper body for each step, are some basics of the stair exercise. At a little advance stage, one can climb two steps at a time. Or do a little bit of descending acrobat of lifting the entire body by firmly holding railings on either side and then dropping both the feet on just one step down, definitely not two.

Another tip: While going up or down, heels or toes should not be hanging down rather whole foot be placed on each step. This gives full footing with more safety as well. A trivial act of misplacing a foot can be the cause of a serious fall. Looking down is not only a humble posture but a better choice to avoid a stair accident.

If safety is the main concern, and it should be, then the cardinal principle is the use of hand-railings all along the stairs. Railings are primarily meant to be a support system for a fall-free stair walk. Curves or bends, and sleekness of a staircase are the aesthetic elements that don’t promise safety.

It is often said when going up or down the stairs do nothing, no phone, no buttoning of the shirt, etc.

Keeping these safeguards in mind stairs does offer a simple, easy and free recreational activity.

THE GENIUS OF MY BROTHER – BALRAJ PURI

balraj-puriMy eldest brother, late Balraj Puri, who died in 2014 at the age of 86, was a social and political activist all his life. In his activism he was a journalist, contributing writer to various newspapers and magazines and author of several books. He was a human rights crusader, organizer of many peace rallies and actively involved in politics.

His scholarly and progressive rationales evinced in his writings and lectures which influenced and impacted contemporary India’s intellectual, academic, and journalistic community.

His debut in writing started, surprisingly, at the very tender age of 12, when he launched his own Urdu-language newspaper in Jammu, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. As the rest of India was fighting for freedom from the British rule, my brother aligned himself with the independence movement in the state from the autocratic rule of the Maharaja.

He was an independent thinker, and that is perhaps was his biggest asset in writing. I seldom saw him reading books. His studies were daily newspapers.  He was an avid reader of newspapers, from page to page. That was his daily cognitive diet, which kept him informed and a stimulating source of his thinking.

In this daily regime, he often used to mark several stories of interest to him and saving them for references. The latter part was assigned to younger siblings in the family, including me. Those newspaper cuttings with their headlines in straight columns or T-shaped were scotch-taped on papers and cataloged subject-wise. These selected clips turned into a little source library of information and data.

They say words are the tools of writing. To be more precise words are bricks to build a writing structure. The selection of words in this assembly depends on the guidance aroused through honest, compassionate, moral, and prudent thinking. And this is where my brother excelled in applying those principles to architect his writing integrity, which might be dense occasionally, but truthfully and conscientiously expressed.

He was a compassionate writer ingrained in originality and sanity in judgment. His writings were opinionated as well as analytical. Prestigious newspapers, weeklies, and magazines were the media which often carried his articles. His style was authoritative and stimulating, which could confront and clash with the stereotyped mindset.

Many times, I wonder how he could write extensive, informed, and discerning essays, articles, and books in the age when there was no google, and the internet was not part of his writing aids.

In the later part of his life when computers just appeared on the horizon, he was still comfortable writing by hand. His writing tools were a pen and sheets of paper on a clipboard. A typist used to come to our house-cum-office a few times a week and type out his writings while struggling to make out his extensive cuts and rewrites.

His fearless and progressive writing style was inspired by his deep values in humanism and rationalism rather than by religious disciplines and scriptural edicts.

He was not a religious person in the ritualistic and traditional sense. He developed his own practical spirituality or ethical guidelines which were reflected in his sincere, virtuous, and simple lifestyle.

He was an Ambedkarite as part of his human rights commitments.

For his lifelong services to the society, he was honored with Padma Bhushan, one of India’s highest civilian awards, and Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration.

Balraj Puri, my brother and the cause of my humanistic views, was born on August 5, 1928.

-By Promod Puri

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A Bird’s Eye View of India On Its 70th Republic Day

By Promod Puri

Republic Day on January 26 is an official colossal event in India every year to celebrate the adoption of its constitution marking the nation as an independent democratic republic. How the country looks after all these years since its Independence from the British Raj in 1947! Although, the statistics have changed as this article was written a few years ago, the overall picture of India remains the same. Maybe not! Especially when there has been quite an ideological transformation to reweave India’s social and secular fabric in the last just over four years.

The cliché that India is a country of extremes when explored make it so complex and contradictory that all the realistic but conflicting arguments and statistics just balance out each other.

And that leaves a juggernaut of overviews or images of the country, making it one of the most complex and hard to discern societies in the world.

The extremes of India can be as high as Himalayan peaks. Or these can be as deep as the Indian ocean. They cover all the aspects of the nation and its mass of 1.21 billion people brimful in the space of 3214 kilometers from north to south and 2993 kilometers from east to west.

These billion-plus people, growing at the rate of 1.34 percent per 2011 estimates, speak over 185 different languages. Twenty-nine of these are categorized as “official.” That means each one of them has over one million native speakers.

The linguistic breakdown continues with countless dialects as part of the family of each of the official languages. The plethora of languages and dialects result in multi- multicultural distinct communities retaining their ethnicities in India’s democratic environment.

In addition to the linguistic and cultural divide, India’s population is further splintered along the world’s major and minor religions. These religious affiliations are then sub-divided into hundreds of regional and ethnic sects.

Hindus dominate the religious demography with 80.5 percent of the population. Hinduism has the maximum number of sects within it. Muslims form the second largest group with 157 million followers. And that earns India the distinction of having the third-largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan.

India is the birthplace and cradle of four religions namely: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Christianity touched its soil about 2000 years ago, almost at the same time, it entered Europe.

Whereas the religious, linguistic, and cultural plurality in the country seeks peaceful preserve under the nationalistic jingle of unity in diversity, occasional bursts of communal riots dampen that spirit.

But the realities of contemporary India lie in its voluminous changes and no change at all. It is a wide-open scene of extreme disparity in all fields and occupations along with overwhelming and mind-blowing figures, which offer cheers as well as despairs.

Among the top stars of the shine-India parade are the 57 Indian billionaires out of 1210 in the world. Per the Forbes annual list of ultra-rich, their net worth ranges from one billion dollars to 22.4 billion.

The Indian billionaire club membership includes industrialist Mukesh Ambani. He is top on the Indian list and 9th in the global rank. His $2 billion vertical palace has, besides luxurious features, quite a view of the reality of India at ground zero.

The place is a scene of sprawling slums whose dwellers represent 41.6 percent of India’s population living below the new international poverty line of $1.25 (purchasing power parity) per day, reveals the World Bank.

Leaving aside the Ambani family and the rest of the billionaires as their personal achievements, the nation itself produces impressive economic growth figures.

As such, India’s economy at $1.632 trillion is the 9th largest in the world by GDP (referring to the market value of all the goods and services produced in the country), and at $4.057 trillion is fourth-largest by PPP. The country’s GDP growth is being maintained at around 8 percent, while GDP per capita is $1371 with inflation at 9.72 percent.

India’s total merchandise and services import and export trade is worth $606 billion, and it has amassed $308.62 billion as a foreign reserve in the last decade or so.

The country, once “the brightest jewel in the British Crown was the poorest nation in the world regarding per capita income,” is now considered an economic powerhouse.

But the other side of the coin is, as per the World Bank figures, 75.6 percent of the country’s population is living on less than $2 a day (PPP) and where over 315 million people with their 50 cents a day income eat their hard-earned daily bread squatting on floor as dining chair and table are luxury items for the poor.
Despite the fact, the poor in India dispense 80 percent of their income on groceries; the spending does not buy them nutritive and protein-rich food.

India has the highest number of malnourished people, at 230 million, and is at 94 of 119 in the world hunger index. Forty-three percent of India’s children under five are underweight, the highest in the world.

The UN estimates 2.1 million Indian children die before reaching the age of five every year, which is four every minute.

Malnutrition often linked with diseases like diarrhea, malaria, and measles is due to lack of access to healthcare and medical services which are related to the problem of poverty.

On the poverty scene, India remains at an “abysmal rank” in the UN Human Development Index, it is positioned at a 132nd place in the 2007-08 index.

India does not hide poverty. Or to be more explicit it can’t.

Thanks to its vibrant and alert democratic system which allows social activists and groups, and the media to openly raise the plight of poor, their sufferings, exploitations, and struggles in the developing as well as stagnant India.

Whereas the poverty scene is quite extensively debated politically and socially, the government itself provides the statistics. And that is one bureaucracy which has earned its reputation internationally.

There are thousands of organizations in the country and a few political outfits exclusively working on many fronts to help the poor and creating awareness of the opportunities available to advance this section of the society to acceptable living standards. Thus, India currently upgrades 60 to 70 million people from the poor to the middle class every year.

An estimated over 300 million Indians now belong to the middle class, one third have emerged from poverty in the last 10 years. And with ambitious expectation, at the current rate majority of Indians will be middle class in 2025.

The question is who belongs to the middle class or how much income is needed to get into this section of the society.

The demarcation is so elastic that the World Bank has stretched it from $4500 to $20,000 per household per year. Whereas, an Indian agency, the National Council for Applied Economic Research, has limited the figure to $4000. And even some say an earning of just $1000 per household of four persons per year is ok to belong to the middle class.

For that inexact and somewhat ambiguous definition, the middle class can be divided into lower-middle-class, middle-middle-class, and upper-middle-class. Together this burgeoning part of the population is the major booster to the country’s economy exerting its influence on most aspects or facets of India.

The country is bursting with expansion on all fronts. With the ever-increasing population, India faces huge problems and huge challenges to meet the growing needs of its people whereby a mere glance at statistics provides some clues to discern the nation.

LITERACY AND HIGHER EDUCATION
In the field of education, despite its tremendous expansion, 25 percent of the population is illiterate. Only 15 percent of Indian students reach high school and just seven percent, graduate.

The 2011 census reveals “every person above age seven, who can read and write in any language, is considered literate.” As such, 75 percent of Indians are literate.

The higher education system in the country is the third-largest in the world. India has about 240 universities, three of them namely the Indian Institute of Technology, the Indian Institute of Management, and the Jawaharlal Nehru University, are listed among the top 20 varsities in the world by the Times Higher Education list.

There are hundreds of medical and engineering colleges churning out tens of thousands of graduates every year. Besides, there are as many polytechnic institutions, and thousands of primary and secondary schools dotting the country all over.

Still many of these learning places are running under-funded and under staff in shabby and disappointing conditions. In a recent study of 189 government-run primary schools, 59 percent had no drinking water, and 89 percent had no toilets.

INFRASTRUCTURE
India is on the move. Its rail network is the largest in the world with 63,465 kilometers of rail tracks. It is the fourth heavily used system in the world transferring over six billion passengers and over 310 million tons of freight annually.

The colossal rail system connects practically every nook and corner of the country. Still, there is a chronic shortage of trains which are mostly jampacked, and even offer a familiar scene of commuters riding on roof-tops of rail compartments.

The roads network is the third-largest in the world with 3,320,410 kilometers’ length including some recently completed national and regional highways. While most others are still very old, extremely narrow, and very poorly maintained. The latter are the backbone of local and inter-city transportation where except for airplanes, all other types of vehicles, from bullock carts to Mercedes and Jaguars run side by side along with two-wheelers, three-wheelers, cyclists, vans, buses, trucks, etc.

In a typical urban scene, pedestrians and moving vehicles share the street along with stray dogs and cows. And it seems everybody has the right of way. It is a matter of maneuverability as to how to get out of the traffic jams in India’s extended rush hours which start early in the morning till late evening seven days a week.

There is a lot of road construction and improvement going on all over India and that includes building new highways and flyovers to ease congestion. The star of modern India’s transportation infrastructure is the so-called Metro passengers-only rail which is amazingly very efficient in its operations and unbelievably clean including the tracks and stations.

Despite tremendous progress in the infrastructure, India has a poor record of road safety, around 90,000 people die from road accidents every year, and that is about 13 persons every hour.

Certainly, rails and roads dominate the Indian transportation system, but air travel is perhaps the fastest growing sector in the country with over half a dozen domestic airlines compared to only one not long ago.

As we move on to realize and comprehend India, corruption, black money, and unethical, dirty and criminally polluted politics blight the country giving a message of hopelessness if the nation will ever cure itself of these ills.

In 2010 India ranked 87th out of 178 countries in Transparency International’s corruption perception index. Corruption is the vehicle by which most of the bureaucracy at all levels of government move or resolve issues. Perhaps one of the biggest contributors to this aspect of the Indian economy is the trucker community who according to Transparency International pays $5 billion in bribes annually to get moving.

India’s black money or underground economy is estimated to be $640 billion in the year 2008, and certainly, it is growing thru corruption and under the table deals. Some news reports claim that “data provided by the Swiss Bank Association Report 2006, showed India has more black money than the rest of the world combined”.

The Swiss Bank Association as per its 2006 estimate suggests that India topped the worldwide list for black money with almost $1,456 billion stashed in Swiss banks, this amount to 13th times the country’s total external debt.

With those whopping sums of black money, it sure feels like “India is a rich country filled with poor.”

With corrupt and black money, there is the criminalization of politics as the nexus exists among criminals, politicians, and bureaucrats. Criminals enjoy the patronage of politicians of all parties and the protection of government functionaries. Gang leaders have become political leaders, and over the years, criminals have been elected to local bodies, provincial assemblies and even to the national parliament.

The corruption, the black money and the contaminated politics in the country along with pathetic and deplorable widespread poverty, while being denounced, resented and protested, are at the same time accepted as inevitable norms in the country. And these issues are as much tolerable as the open garbage littering the streets of India. Still, life goes on despite being intentionally ignored as visible realities.

However, equally striking realities are the whopping increase in cell phone subscribers and internet users running into millions. There are impressive, exciting and trendy big shopping malls. Several lanes modern highways, freeways, and flyovers are changing the urban and countryside landscape. Many five to seven stars hotels with fluently English-speaking staff; latest models of luxury cars and in plenty the visible realities.

Famous brand name expensive clothing and most household accessories; millions of barrels and bottles of finest wines, whiskeys, and scotch; multistory commercial and residential buildings with ultra-modern amenities and luxurious decor, and skyrocketing real estate values which are among highest in the world add to the cultural and architectural scene of modern India.

The whole landscape of urban India looks different not only in physical outlook, but the affluence has brought quite a change in the social culture of people as well. The American and European culture seems to be part of the Indian cultural mosaic especially among the young, educated and well-paid professionals and the business people.

That is the new reality of contemporary India which is represented by the rich and the middle-class sections of the population, but that creates an illusion that the nation is a land of enormous prosperity. And this illusion is reinforced by the media thru their various programming, commercials and advertising whereby India looks spotlessly clean, and people are quite well off and happy.

The current disparities, contrasts, and extremes of present-day India offer both apprehensions and challenges for the nation.
And keeping in mind the ever-growing demands of its surging population along with limited resources and limited land area, the Indian political, social and spiritual activists and leadership along with its educated and well-informed bureaucracy and intelligentsia, all must redefine to replace the popular concepts of progress, development and the standards of living, otherwise, the present insane race to seek super economic power status will eventually be disastrous for India and its environment.

The goal is to seek an egalitarian society with an even overview of India with fewer gaps between its extremes.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions).

 

Roundtrip Of Behaviour

behaviour

Nationalism & Patriotism Are Threats To Global Peace And environment

By Promod Puri

I have been an anti-national ever since I understood the nature of its allegiance to the country one belongs to. At the same time, I am not a patriot either with its blurred image as it is often a consequence of nationalism.

Patriotism and nationalism have obscure borderline between them. It is a “problematic pair” to find independent definitions to isolate each concept. Both the words are synonyms to each other according to their dictionary explanations. Still, certain attempts have been made to detach the two.

Nationalism arises from the word nation. As such it seeks love, devotion, pride and unconditional loyalty for it. This commitment must be confined within a nation’s borders. It is an outright, and avid engagement with the country one resides in.

Nationalism also seeks pride in the nation’s identities contained in monolithic societies.

One religion, one language, and one culture dominate the monolithic societies. Together these are showcased to represent the overall nationalistic character of the nation. The politics of the country are espoused and steered around the sensitivities linked with these aspects.

However, in the universality of contemporary society, nationalism has a confined perspective. It denies or ignores the fast-emerging reality of multicultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious expressions of nations. In the nationalism of the majority, minorities’ share is limited or unimportant.

As technology, internet, and social media are the current factors cementing the multi-facet character of the world’s societies, the sentiment of nationalism is not much of an appeal.

Moreover, nationalism thins out when people migrate due to political, economic and other reasons or as refugees. It is often a dilemma for immigrants to settle in host countries to pick one national loyalty and reject the other.

Nationalism has lost its impact because no single identities are monopolizing cosmopolitan populations. But it is used as a political tool to arouse the religious, cultural and linguistic sentiments of the majority community.

Nationalism leads to the political exploitation of the dominating community apprehensive of being overwhelmed by the population mix of multiple and distinctive identities.

Xenophobia is thus forged thru the nationalistic politics.

Governments are elected in a manufactured atmosphere of fear and hatred for minorities, foreigners, and refugees. Enemies are concocted within a nation where bigotry, racism, and injustice are encouraged and played for political sovereignty.

Albert Einstein said: “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”

Nationalism finds accomplice in patriotism for political gains and opportunism. In this behavior, patriotism becomes a victim of nationalism.

Patriotism is derived from the word patriot. Its character is better understood in valor, bravery, sacrifice, duty and devotion toward the nation and its citizens.

The purity of patriotism lies in the concerns and care of the nation’s people, devoting and even sacrificing for their protection and peace irrespective of their class, caste, religious or cultural affiliations. It encourages pride in the achievements of the nation while seeking a critical analysis of its failures which even involves governing leadership.

A changing behavior has been observed toward the concept of patriotism among school kids in the United States recently. According to a study by Professor Jane Lo of Florida State University, “students opt out of the ritual of saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.”

Further according to the professor, “a public opinion poll conducted by the Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness suggests that young people see the flag, less as a symbol to be proud of and more as a symbol of what is wrong with the country. If more students are associating the flag with flaws in the system, it would explain why some students opt out of standing for the pledge of allegiance or other celebratory acts.”

Patriotism, nevertheless, is an evocation to support and shield the parochial aspect of nationalism. As it keeps subtle binding with nationalism, military patriotism is manifested.

But military patriotism induces an ever-escalating global war budget in the name of “defense.”

As patriotism is a major motivating factor, armed forces are raised and maintained with the spending of billions and trillions of dollars for the “defense.”

The question is: defense from whom?

Countries are not being invaded by other countries anymore. That era, which dominated the histories of humanity, ended with the Second World War 73 years ago.

The thirst of the political Left and Right ideologies for political dominance and expansionism are not the factors either. That period was over with the end of the Cold War between the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc in the late last century.

What is aimed now is the business or corporate expansionism. The reason being an ever-increasing appetite of capitalism which significantly impacts both the democratic and communist political systems. Business-political nexus is thus created.

In this expansionist development over the last several decades, borders for battleground are not needed. But the war industry’s clout keeps the borders hostile. Aggressive patriotism, infused with nationalism, is set up across the borderlines.

From that perspective, military patriotism is a deadly commitment.

The eighteenth-century French philosopher Voltaire said, “It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.”

We can admit that patriotism has been a motivating factor in the service of humanity. Both nationalism and patriotism have historical contributions toward pride, unity, independence, and sovereignty of a nation.

But the world has changed comprising of varied demographic characters. Nationalism and patriotism are now divisive concepts within a nation’s borders. Most fights and conflicts worldwide are happening within a country, not between nations.

When nationalism stirrups patriotism, the latter develops into a chauvinistic tool of power politics.

Both nationalism and patriotism relate only to the confines of the nation’s border, while the world thru technology, mass communication, and social media is fast emerging a cosmopolitan mix of one world- community.

“Our true nationality is mankind,” H.G. Wells

As such, our concerns and issues are now at the global level of wellness of all humanity. This empathetic awareness creates respect and understanding among peoples of the world irrespective of class, caste, religious or societal differences.

In this concern, our environments, which have no space in the nationalistic and patriotic jingoism, are also equal partners seeking their attention and protection.

As we are fast developing into a multi-facet global community, what we need is humanitarianism and environmentalism without the caging borders of nationalism, and the obscurity of patriotism.

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Promod Puri is a Vancouver-based writer and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions. Websites: progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com

 

Understanding Physics of 2018 Nobel Winners

by Promod Puri

We are quite familiar with tweezers, the small nippers for plucking out unwanted hairs or extracting splinters.

But when these little tools are made of light beams to hold very tiny objects in scientific and medical fields, the optical tweezers play quite a significant role as technical aids in the studies of motions and behavior of molecular or cellular particles.

That precisely the reason the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to Arthur Ashkin for his works on optical tweezers.

Other co-winners of the Nobel Prize in physics are Gerard Mourou and Canadian scientist Donna Strickland for creating the technology which generates high-intensity, ultra-short laser pulses, which are used for eye surgeries and for studies of the extremely fast phenomenon in the atomic domain.

Light is more than making things visible. It is also a force. When applied to a physical object it is called radiation pressure. In this application, a coherent beam of light known as the laser is focussed on the object. An optical tweezer is created by two laser beams coming from the opposite direction and falling on the matter.

“In 1969, Arthur Ashkin used lasers to trap and accelerate micron-sized objects such as tiny spheres and water droplets. This led to the invention of optical tweezers that use two or more focused laser beams aimed in opposite directions to attract a target particle or cell toward the center of the beams and hold it in place. Each time the particle moves away from the center, it encounters a force pushing it back toward the center”, explains Todd Adams, Professor of Physics, Florida State University, in his article in The Conversation.

While the Nobel recognized the works of optical tweezers by Ashkin, the development of other optical tools from light beams also has an essential contribution for generating high-intensity and ultra-short laser pulses. These intensified bursts of light are now the tools for eye surgeries. The pioneer works of Mourou and Strickland in developing these tools have earned them the Nobel Prize.

The two physicists invented the way to create intense light but for the extremely short duration. These are bursts or pulses of light of ultrashort-term in an attosecond, which is trillionth of a second.

“As an analogy, consider a thick rubber band. When the band is stretched, the rubber becomes thinner. When it is released, it returns to its original thickness. Now imagine that there is a way to make the stretched rubber band thicker. When the band is released, it will end up thicker than the original band. This is essentially what happens with the laser pulse”, writes Professor Adams.

The thicker or high-intensity laser bursts are used in eye surgeries and for studying ultra-fast activities at the atomic levels.

“The 2018 Nobel Prize in physics shines a light on the pioneering work of these three scientists. Over the past three decades, their inventions have created avenues of science and medical treatments that were previously unattainable”, Professor Adams concludes in his article.

Politics

How To Win Elections Trump Style

By Promod Puri

Unless a celestial intervention takes place the next spectacle of the American election will be the pompous entry of Donald Trump as Republican nominee in the presidential race.

In his march toward clinching the party’s nomination Trump has revealed the very landscape of America which is still extensively dotted with xenophobic swamps and bogs breeding and feeding the Klan-everglades.

Trump’s battle for nomination seems to be a well-planned strategy, and being a demagog he has successfully rounded up American diehards to create a nation-wide constituency of ultraconservatives.

Consequent to that Trump does not belong to the Republican Party, rather the party belongs to him. In its new avatar the party has reduced itself to be a mere shell embodying the myopic spirit of Trump.

The constituency he has assembled is his secure vote bank of constituents who have acquired a solid strain of immunity toward any political gravity other than their divinity toward Trump.

Realizing that this bagful of admirers and zealots won’t get him into the White House, and keeping in mind the multiracial demographic reality of America, the next election strategy can be a bitter pill for Trump to swallow. This treatment would move him from the extreme right to the middle of the political spectrum. Being a politician and businessman to the core Trump will not hesitate to put on a new outfit, though temporarily.

In this gamesmanship all his shortsighted, bigoted and vile statements can be retractable, but these would still be struck in his throat till the election is over.

 

What Is Hindutva And Why It Conflicts With Hinduism

By Promod Puri

The expression Hindutva emerged from Hinduism which simply means a state or quality of being a Hindu. However, going through its etymology Hindutva sought a wider demarcation to move free from Hinduism but keeping a bonded identity with it as well.

The Hindutva ideology was first introduced in 1923 by Maharashtra-based Hindu social and political activist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. As an advocate of sovereignty, Savarkar started his public life as a radical freedom fighter for the liberation of India from the British rule. In this stint, he spent several years in jail, including the infamous and torturous cells of the Andaman Islands from where he sought clemency with a promise to renounce revolutionary activities. After the release, Savarkar’s temperament turned to create Hindu nationalism by identifying and promoting its heritage and civilization.

Savarkar had inherent conservative vision of Hindu social and political consciousness in order to perceive a Hindu Rashtra (nation). His Hindutva doctrine is based on the hypothesis that India’s religious and cultural diversities are fundamentally rooted in its collective Hindu identity.

“Common Rashtra, common race and common culture” are the three cardinals identifying Hindutva nationalism

In line with the Hindutva’s concept, Hindu means a nationality of Hindu Rashtra, a motherland or fatherland with its geographical boundaries. And in terms of “common race and common culture” Hindu means a correlative genealogy or ancestry, sharing its cultural heritage, beliefs, and ethics.

Correspondent to that the followers of all the India-born religions and sects are included in the Hindutva fold. But it excludes those who belong to foreign-born faiths like Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.

Hindutva tries to portray itself as a cultural and nationalistic conception to mark itself as India’s identity. Still, it does not assume a theological categorization. In its expansive role, Hindutva believes in the existence of a collective Hindu culture or way of life which is also being shared and practiced by compatible non-Hindu communities. In social environs, Hindutva is everything which is Indic.

Savarkar explicitly proclaimed, “Hindutva is not a word but a history. Not only the spiritual or religious history of our people as at times it is mistaken to be by being confounded with the other cognate term Hinduism, but history in full”.

Savarkar’s approach incidentally confined Hinduism within its religious and spiritual order. And let Hindutva play a wider role to define India’s nationalism, its people, history, culture and traditions.

Savarkar argued “Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an ‘ism’ it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or creed. Had not linguistic usage stood in our way then ‘Hinduness’ would have certainly been a better word than Hinduism as a near parallel to Hindutva”.

He declared “Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. … Hindutva embraces all the departments of thought and activity of the whole Being of our Hindu race”.

In India’s cultural, linguistic and religious diversities, Savarkar believed an existence of a strong underlying Indian tradition based on his vision of Hindu values. In his views Hindu reflects a cultural and political nationality of India.

With that premise Savarkar tried to secularized Hindutva. Under that platform he could include Muslims, Christians and Parsis believing these communities were Hindus too from cultural and historical perspectives.

According to Hindutva, being a Hindu is more than a religious engagement. It is a cultural concept not only of Hindus but of other communities as well residing within the Hindu social order irrespective of their religious affiliations.

Inspired by Hinduism but having its fundamentals in culture, history and civilization Hindutva finds some parallel with existing Bharatiya and Hindustani appellations. The latter represent the diverse cultural and social values of India in more secular and unequivocal terms than Hindutva.

While restricting it in theological domain, Savarkar’s attempt to whip Hindutva ideology from Hinduism is perplexing to Hindu mind. Neither it can be classified a reform movement in Hinduism.

With his literary background in Indology it is confusing why Savarkar was unable to realize that the uniqueness of Hinduism lies in its totality which covers not only rituals, philosophies and spirituality, but its traditions, cultural and social trends also.

Hinduism is not merely a religion. And it is not only a way of life either. It goes beyond rituals, customs and traditions. The depth and vastness of Hinduism touch every aspect of human observation and activity.

From rituals to murti-puja, mantra and metaphysics, karma and moksha, to meditation and yoga, and all its recreational aspects like music, dance and drama, Hinduism is a disciplinary as well as a comprehensive experience of spiritual development in liberal and progressive regime.

This expanded definition covers the cultural, religious and philosophical aspects to present a collective identity of Hinduism for ritualistic, theological and academic pursuits. Taking out the social segment or any other aspect from it goes against the very spirit and integrated constitution of Hinduism.

Besides treading through its rituals, customs and traditions, being a Hindu is an engagement in philosophies for analytical debate about life and our relationship with nature and the universe. It is a fascinating journey in spiritual knowledge.

This pilgrimage offers a meaningful perspective of the religion which recognizes the universal connectivity existing in the nature including our relationship with fellow human beings. Savarkar’s fenced Hindutva ideology, which bars non-Hindus, denies that universal connectivity.

The Upnishadic vision of our togetherness as one human race irrespective of our color, creed or religious beliefs is very wisely expressed in the following mantra:

“ Om purnam adah purnam idam

purnat purnam udachyate

purnasya purnam adaya

purnam evavashishyate”.

The mantra affirms that the universe is a totality, indivisible and an organic whole where plants, birds, animals, humans, mountains and stars are all together in His manifestation

The mantra’s accent is on complete balance in all of His universal creations from the elements of nature to mankind. For humanity the mantra conveys a message that every human being is equal in his or her completeness as manifested by Him.

Savarkar talks about the exclusivity of membership in Hindutva who shares “common rashtra, common race and common culture”. In all these commonalities the underlying link is a separate rashtra, a separate race and a separate culture of Hindutva.

Culture is a distinctive feature of one group of people comprising of several aspects. One of them is religion, and the others are language, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. Obviously, one aspect of a culture does not represent the whole.

The expression “Hindu culture” is as vague as saying Hindu cuisine (except by international airlines referring to “Hindu meal”). And it is as much eluding as trying to contrive a language, music, arts, customs, etc. with suffix of Hindu like saying Hindu music or Hindu language.

Culture in most cases is secular in nature.

When we talk about a cultural community, we mean an all-inclusive explicit way of life. It represents all of the group of people sharing common identities despite belonging to different religious denominations. But all speaking the same language and sharing the same social and cultural traits.

Often people of one cultural community have several religions.

The unity of India lies in its cultural plurality. The denial of that plurality and imposing a monolithic Hindutva hegemony fragments the multicultural fabric of the nation. Social unity and coherence are the natural needs and dependencies of an advancing society.

In its present avatar Hindutva ideology of non-inclusiveness conflicts with the secular, liberal and democratic spirit of Hinduism. Hindutva needs an ideological reconstruction which can be an effective and dedicated institution in the service of Hinduism.

But if it does not, and sticks to its stand that “Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva”, then it can find some archive space in Hinduism. In its vast open structure Hinduism has always accommodated diverse ideologies. And kept them as part of its history and ever evolving constitution. That is the tradition in Hinduism. Hindutva can rest in that tradition.

(Promod Puri lives in Vancouver, Canada. He is a writer and former editor and publisher of the South Asian Canadian newspaper, The Link, and ex editor of Native Indian newspaper, The New Nation. He is author of recently published book titled “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs and traditions”). His website: promodpuri.com

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