Cringe-worthy news

Three recent examples.

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said:

"I have always maintained that Rahul Gandhi would be an ideal choice for the PM post after 2014 elections (Lok Sabha). I will be very happy to work in the Congress under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi."

As a sitting PM, it does not behove him to 'abdicate'. Whatever the behind-the-scenes happenings, he ought to give the perception of being in charge. He may praise Rahul Gandhi, but the country most certainly does not like its leader to announce that he will work "under" anybody. It was a weak-kneed obsequious comment.


Watched a rather nice interview of Zubin Mehta on NDTV after his concert in Srinagar. However, two of his comments were rather off:

• “Let (us) have another way, a spiritual way and I think yesterday there was a beginning of some process of healing because Hindus and Muslims were sitting together in complete harmony."

The Kashmir issue is not a communal matter. If this harmony works, then the Kashmiri Pandits who feel shortchanged and have been applauding the concert should also accept the maestro's version of harmony. They will not. So, one cannot expect it from those who live under the threat of the bullet.

• "Geelani Sahab hum to aapka dost hoon (I am your friend). You don't believe it! I wish all of our opposition would have come and enjoyed the music."

The 'opposition' is made up of several streams of thought. Singling out Geelani just made it appear as though he drives Kashmiri aspirations alone.


Later on 'We the People' regarding the same subject, someone described as a media person who spoke against elitism mentioned how her car was stopped several times, documents checked and added, "This is not an everyday thing in Srinagar." It was so superficial. In fact, there are barricades and checkpoints and the less privileged are stopped everyday. She ended up doing the varnish job while trying to complain about it.


The Times of India carried a story discussing how spirituality and sex and not mutually-exclusive in Hinduism. It started and ended with Asaram Bapu, in effect conveying that he does not have to be a celibate.This was not in their "Sacred Space" or even an Op-Ed or a feature. It was a report.

This is disgusting, considering how the newspaper has been commercialising its concern for rape 'survivors'. Here is how it starts:

"Asaram is being pilloried by everybody, from parliamentarians to journalists, for alleged sexual assault on a teenager and is in jail now. Some of the horrified public responses at his alleged act can also be attributed to the general notion that dissociates sex from spirituality. This notion considers everybody on the spiritual path as 'wedded' to celibacy. But is this perception correct?...This possibly explains why many Hindi newspapers and TV channels are aghast at the preacher's 'fall from grace'."

Rather conveniently, the blame has been placed on Hindi channels, and Christian priests used as a counterpoint in the English media. This is asinine. It also reveals the mindset. Rape is not a sexual relationship. Such idiocy camouflages the intent to airbrush the image of this godman.

"...ancient Hindu rishis were known to have families and children. Even modern spiritualists like Swami Ramakrisnha Paramhansa... were all householders...If Asaram has broken the law with the alleged sexual assault on a minor then of course the book must be thrown at him."

This is for the courts to decide, and not some scripture. Asaram's celibacy or lack of it is not the issue. Had it been consensual with an adult, and had he — and his followers — not gone around promoting some form of sexual purity, it would not have at best been a salacious moment. Remember Nityananda and his video clips? (Aside: The same English media pilloried N.D. Tiwari for being caught with some women, although he is not a godman.)

The article mentions sex abuse by Christian priests, but not a word about many cases in ashrams in India. If Hinduism permits sadhus to have a sex life, then why do they talk about 'sanyas'? It is the pinnacle, and they obviously have not reached it.

All this apart, it is just appalling that when a man is in court for a crime like rape, an attempt is made by a big mainstream newspaper to discuss spiritualism and sexuality with his case as a backgrounder. Shameful, any which way we look at it.

© Farzana Versey