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As part of the Anti-Rape Bill which is an amendment to the Indian Penal Code., stalking, voyeurism and acid attacks are in particular called out. So far so good. But it went downhill rather quickly when a discussion ensued in the parliament. Here’s Sharad Yadav:

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His take:

He also said provisions to make stalking and staring a crime can be misused. “Who amongst us have not followed girls,” Yadav said evoking peels of laughter.

He said this while making a larger point that men make the first move and approach women when they are interested—which I’d say is accurate. But there’s a vast spectrum between approaching a girl and stalking a girl. I’d leave it to the girl to decide which is which. I trust her judgement. Because all women are not stupid. Because women are as intellectual as men. Because women are equal to men.

Which is the whole fucking point of all this!

His exact words, “Kaun hai hum mein sey jo peecha nahin kiya?,” taken verbatim tend towards stalking. And that’s how it should be. I can’t think of any legitimate reason why a guy is following a girl. (Fine, I’ll give you going-shopping-with-some-girls. But if that’s outlawed, who’s complaining?)

Back to the point. In all social issues, there is always a fear that is voiced: We want to do something but let’s not dial the knob too far! From gay marriage to women’s safety. If there’s something worse than the bigotry of opponents, it is their non-imaginative counter examples. For gay marriage, it was polygamy and bestiality (both of which don’t scare me.) For women’s rights, it is always men making this point and the point is always: But .. but this will give them too much power which they might then misuse!

Irony, meet Anti-Rape Bill.

I wish Sharad Yadav and those who think likewise took a moment to step in the shoes of the girl they are “following” and considering a hypothetical where the girl doesn’t like them at all. Or in concepts that bigots understand: What if Sharad Yadav was followed by a gay guy who wanted to have sex with him?

Not so appealing now, is it?

That is why things will be alright if stalking is recognized as an offense.

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Now there will be cases where you might be interested in a girl, you approach her and say as much in the most non-threatening way and she still feels threatened. A valid point. But in those cases, I fear an immediate-justice mob mentality than a judge taking facts into account and ruling against you. Let’s even say the girl is excessively paranoid and feels threatened just by you talking to her. That’s a rare edge case but I’d side with the girl because you did harass her psychologically. (And to be fair, you also did approach someone you knew nothing about.)

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We Indians really need to sit down and have a conversation about the concept of healthy dating. If only there was a culture we could emulate for the right reasons ..

Earlier today the Department of Telecommunications, acting on a court order, blocked several URLs that were critical of IIPM–and by that I mean URLs that told the truth about IIPM. Now why would the IIPM get such a court order? Just because they can.

TL;DR: IIPM is a scam and Chaudhari is a dickhead (and this has nothing to do with the uncanny resemblance).

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As a refresher, here is a hilarious video of Arindham Chaudhari speaking during the Anna Hazare anti-corruption protests, among other things extolling the virtues of Rwanda. Fucking Rwanda!

Sometimes the best argument against religion is religion itself.

Rahul Gandhi was recently elected Vice President of the Indian National Congress. He spoke on the occasion. (That elected ought to be italicized.) Narendra Modi, invited as chief guest, spoke his mind at Shri Ram College of Commerce yesterday. I recommend watching both.

I’m conflicted and boy am I glad I don’t have to choose between the two.

The speeches were in contrast both in content and delivery. Narendra Modi spoke of his achievements; Rahul Gandhi spoke of the problem with politics. There were a few moments of awkward irony when his criticisms were embodied by the people in the same video frame as him.

Modi stuck to governance. He didn’t seem very interested in talking about the political system. Politics seemed like a means to an end for him. Gandhi spoke little else than politics. He appeared earnest in his will to fix politics. Again, he could have fixed most of the problems in politics by grabbing a club and shutting the door of the room.

Modi invokes a sense of pride in being an Indian. We have enough precedents there to say that we like those who make us feel proud of ourselves. Modi also spoke about having a small but efficient government. That’s a refreshing idea in Indian politics. Gandhi wanted the government to do as much as it could for the people.

For the first time, we might see an ideological debate between classic right-wing and left-wing philosophies. No matter where you’re coming from, that ought to be refreshing.

Gandhi spoke about social issues; Modi didn’t. Gandhi spoke a fair bit about women’s issues; Modi didn’t. That might have to do more with the occasion than what’s on Modi’s radar. But if he had spoken about women’s rights, I presume he’d have a traditional view of women’s rights. My hunch is Modi falls on the misogynist side of things while Gandhi doesn’t.

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The biggest fear with Gandhi is that he will be incompetent as a Prime Minister. To me, the biggest fear is that he will maintain the status quo. The biggest fear with Modi is that he will authorize killings if something pisses him off. That is still conditional, so my biggest fear is that groups seemingly acting on his behalf will make the country unstable the moment he is elected.

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It is presumed that the two will clash head-to-head next year in the general elections. That is a slight exaggeration for two reasons. First, in the era of coalition politics, we don’t vote for a Prime Minister–although we think we do. Second, there is a possibility that the BJP will pull a last-minute move to nominate someone safer like Sushma Swaraj. (BJP goes by Murphy’s Law: Anything that they can do wrong, they will.)

If however Gandhi and Modi are the de-facto nominees of India’s two largest parties, I think we’ll benefit from a clash only on two conditions–and I’m being wishful here. Both involve giving a middle finger: Gandhi to senior politicians and the rampant sycophancy in his party (I think he could bring about change faster and undermine his own authority better by staying in the Congress than from outside–much like King Abdullah of Jordan) and the second is from Modi to RSS/VHP/ABVP and other right-wing groups that he evidently has strained relations with but who act as if they speak for him.

Only then will we have an election worthy of our country.

All said, if people are asked to choose between the two, it’s going to be a no brainer for many (skewed towards Modi). And if that is what India chooses in 2014, liberal educated elite (including I) will go through an interesting journey.

This hit me hard:

India Rape Victim’s Friend Describes Their Love Story

[Link]

As part of a briefing about electronic innovations planned for this year by the department in charge of electronic innovations, the Indian government unveiled early plans for a new device it hopes will reduce crimes against women. It is a watch that can alert authorities and family members that you feel you are in danger and start filming at the same time.

The initiative was unveiled by Kapil Sibal, information technology minister, earlier this week. He said the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, a unit within the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, is working on the proposed gadget. The government noted in a subsequent press release that it would be timely given “unfortunate incidents of crimes against women in particular.”

I’m really confused. This is either genius or the dumbest thing I’ve heard. I think I’ll wait to see the prototypes in action.

Putting on my technical hat: GPS locators can take anywhere between 30 seconds to a few minutes to determine an approximate location. Criminals can disable the device in the meanwhile. A good signal from satellites is required. Moving vehicles will be harder to track. Still, I’m eager to see prototypes.

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P.S. The reason your phone finds your location almost immediately is because it uses WiFi networks around you to quickly look up your location. Likewise, whenever the phone GPS is enabled, phones collect which WiFi networks are near your location. This information is stored by companies so the next time anyone is at the same place, their location can quickly be determined from the surrounding WiFi networks.

As an Indian who has a capacity to feel infuriated, the last few months have been busy. This week’s cause is illegal ban on Vishwaroopam. Kamal Haasan gave an emotional press conference earlier today, in effect saying that he is being forced to seek a more secular state or country where he can pursue his art.

Watch it here.

I agree with Salman Rushdie when he says there is a cultural emergency in India. For that reason alone, I hope Kamal Haasan feels compelled to emigrate. M.F. Hussain had to do the same a few years ago. However, the nature of his work was controversial enough that not many people realized we were already in a cultural emergency. Vishwaroopam can be a simpler reminder that even something non-controversial (Edit: Vishwaroopam depicts Al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan. That’s all it does.) can offend those who seek offense. It is bad enough that they believe they have an ability—and a right—to indulge their offenses; it is so much worse that those in the government heed to their tantrums and pass illegal bans.

The petitioners’ main concern with the movie was that there was “a danger that the public may view any Muslim with a beard as a terrorist.” Way to dodge that bullet, for the main petitioner, Mohammed Hanifa, has a beard, is a Muslim and I’m sorry to say is a cultural terrorist. One might even argue that within a reasonable definition of terrorism, we could do away with the cultural adjective.

Still, offense takers are only half the problem. The government ought to take a larger blame because it is their duty to uphold the law.

Freedom of speech isn’t a high priority for an average person. So governments face no repercussions for appeasing fundamentalists. Who is going to not vote for a candidate because their party didn’t uphold the freedom of speech or expression? In fact, most of us continue to believe that freedom of speech only exists up to the point where we hurt someone’s sentiments. (And rightly so, because that’s what the constitution says anyway.)

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There are a number of incidents and news articles every day that can make one despair about the state of the world. I don’t recommend despairing for every terrible thing one comes across. I now have an implicit rule before I despair. I despair when we regress. (Everything else, while terrible, is some path to progress and provides hope for a better future.)

Now to that point, one can compare the content of The Satanic Verses or the movie Fire, both of which provoked bans decades earlier, to the content of Vishwaroopam.

We have without a doubt regressed as a society.

That is the reason I’m infuriated and in despair.

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The first question to Kamal Haasan after his statement was by a journalist, “So are you disowning Tamil Nadu?” It was clearly a journalist looking for a tasty sound bite. Perhaps I haven’t been following the Indian media close enough to know what the new normal is, but I found it distasteful.

You’ve gotta watch this:

This is disgusting, even for Indian politics. Narendra Modi on Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Shashi Tharoor:

There was a Congress leader who was a minister in Parliament. He was accused of amassing wealth from cricket. He had said in Parliament that he is not connected to the Rs 50 crore in the lady’s name. Have you ever heard of Rs 50 crore girlfriend?

In the same link, BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi:

For an international love guru like him, a ministry of Love Affairs should be created.

Dickheads.

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Shashi Tharoor’s bitch slap:

My wife is worth a lot more than your imaginary 50 crores. She is priceless. But you need to be able to love someone to understand that.

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It’s like we realized centuries ago that women were to be respected (even then they weren’t, but just play along). Now we only respect those who conform to our idea of women from that time. No divorcees, no jeans-clad women, no feminists. In fact, no non-menpausal women are to be respected. And even that has exceptions.

Only goddesses are considered goddesses and that too only because they are not real. If those big-bosomed, curvy goddesses existed for real, I’d bet they’d be seeing some “accidental” touching by priests and devotees.

Make sense of this:

A 22-year-old mistook an HIV negative report for having AIDS and hanged himself to death with a nylon rope at his workplace in Madhopur near Pathankot on Tuesday night.

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One can only wish it would have ended like this:

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