Monday, December 28, 2009

The Inequalities of Equality?

The recent surrender by the Indian government to KCR's "fast-unto-death" raised a lot of fresh questions in my mind about the purpose of the Indian Constitution and the relevance of fundamental rights and the selective applicability of certain sections of the Indian (Ranbir) Penal Code .
Fasting unto death is by no means a new form of political agitation. The earliest and most quoted and probably the most inspiring of such fasts was that of Mahatma Gandhi. The British who wrote-in section 309 of Indian Penal Code back in 1860 did not deem it fit to imprison MK Gandhi because they maintained that his purpose was justified and the law should be employed judiciously. Over the centuries, our law makers have regularly debated on whether an attempt to suicide is really a criminal offense or whether it is a law meant for political misuse. The supreme court's verdict in 1994 making section 309 unconstitutional was reversed in 1996. Over the decades, a number of civilians and politicians have attempted the 'fast-unto-death' blackmail for various political reasons and very noticeably, while the politicians get their way, the civilians have been arrested and tortured even when critics have maintained that their causes remain just. I am talking about the likes of Medha Patkar and Irom Sharmila.
Irom Sharmila's case to me is particularly shocking and cruel. Her protest ,unparalleled in world's history of political agitations has evoked nothing but world wide horror at the treatment meted out to her. Her 10 year fast to protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act has been acknowledged just simply because of the excesses committed by the army in the state of Manipur under this act's protection. She has been imprisoned for the last 10 years under section 309 of the RPC (released periodically every year as required by law and then re-arrested), secured in a high security vault and has been force-fed through pipes and tubes. Even with support from the United Nations and human rights activists across the globe, there have been nothing more than empty promises assuring changes in the vague future from every prime minister since she began the fast in November 2000.
The issue of whether or not Irom Sharmila's treatment is humane is wholly different, but I am a little confused about the relevance of Article 14 in the Indian constitution, known to the common man as "Equality before Law" as part of every Indian citizen's right to equality."Article 14 of the constitution guarantees that all citizens shall be equally protected by the laws of the country. It means that the State cannot discriminate against a citizen on the basis of caste, creed, colour, sex, religion or place of birth." Is it a deliberate loophole that the constitution does not mention that a citizen cannot also be discriminated based on his/ her political influence?
Why did the government not only not arrest KCR for his attempt to suicide but also "gave-in" because they were "concerned" for his health. If they were indeed that concerned, why did they not force-feed him through tubes like they do to Sharmila? Can Irom Sharmila or anyone else on her behalf file a petition with the court for the upholding of our fundamental right to equality before law? I do not think there are any answers to these questions...but we can indeed draw some conclusions. This is just another glaring example of how we are is not true that all citizens are equal before the law. Some laws like section 309 appear more to be for the protection of the state than for the individual.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Three Idiots- No Spoilers

Its entertaining, emotional, outrageous, heart warming, no skimpily clothed heroines and no sexual vulgarity. Above all, it brings a sense of hope and euphoria.
After a long time (Taare Zameen Par), I would actually like watching a Hindi movie a second time, albeit they are not in the same league. The movie had an almost perfect script, with the right blend of comedy and emotions and an interesting combination of both. Of course to laugh amidst tears is one of the underlying messages of the movie.
For three hours I could completely forget my worries and grudges and if I am called an idiot for needing 3 more idiots from Tinseltown to feel this way, I dont care. It was worth it. It was NOT a "5 Point Someone " movie barring occasional similarities. The subtle mockery of Indian education system could have probably been less subtle. I doubt the issue of suicides among students in the movie will drive home the point in a way that the message on dyslexia in TZP did.
But, in the end, it is definitely worth at least one watch and, even if you don't agree, All is Well ! ;)