"India's Attack on Free Speech"

That's the title of a recent article by Sonia Faleiro in the New York Times. It's a scathing attack on how the country is changing from a "secular democracy" to a "Hindu Pakistan" since the Bharathiya Janatha Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014. The article was featured in post by Professor Eugene Volokh in the Volokh Conspiracy, a legal blog that I frequent. This is my reponse to Professor Volokh's queries on the article:

I am a bit surprised, Professor Volokh, that you have dared to wade into India's murky politico-religious scene! Accusations and counter-accusations of which administration is more communal than another is as commonplace - and often devoid of logic - in India, as which administration is more racist than another in the USA.

If you are familiar with identity politics in India as I am, there is not much insight to be gained from this article. If you are not - as you admit - then you are only getting half of the story. To get a flavor of  “how liberal” communists — even India’s communists — are", please read this:  "Editor arrested for 'outraging Muslims". You may also research similar incidents relating to Sanal Edamaruku, Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie ... during the previous administrations, mostly of the Congress Party.

Looking beyond these political shenanigans, the legal scene regarding freedom of speech in India is, and has been, quite dismal. Ostensibly, freedom of speech is guaranteed under Article 19 of the India Constitution. This article has been amended, claused, and subclaused so much, however, that it has been rendered meaningless. As Justice Scalia said during a a Senate Hearing in 2011, ".. it’s just words on paper, what our Framers would have called a “parchment guarantee.”"

Section 295 A  of the Indian Penal Code, for example, reads: "Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both." This is essentially a blasphemy law that has been enforced selectively across administrations to score political points. A summary of the legislative and case history of 295A can be found here.

Another example, Section 66A of India's IT Act which extends 295A to all communication including electronic communication, is a death knell to any semblance of freedom of speech. I am sure that the author of the New York Times article is aware that the said amendment was passed by the ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress Party, 6 years before Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP, took office in 2014.

Regarding the three murders in particular referred to by the author, while they could well have been perpetrated by Hindu extremists, and I personally suspect so, to the best of my knowledge, no one has been apprehended or convicted so far. Further, at least in one case, family dispute is suspected by the police, and that's in the  Congress Party governed state of Karnataka. It is worth noting here that these murders are preceded by years, even centuries of religious violence and mayhem in India.

Concluding from a few such recent incidents that "the country is undergoing a tectonic shift that will have long-term repercussions", is similar to concluding that a tectonic shift is occurring in the USA, after reading that Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz had visited Kim Davis in prison. Or, because a random guy with a history of mental illness and subscribing to a potpourri of extremist ideas went on a shooting rampage in Oregon.
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Sinday Levitycus: Religious Bone-Head Syndrome

Religious Bone-Head Syndrome (RBHS) is a viral mental illness that is not so new to humans. It was first reported in Mount Sinai around 1500 BCE, when a man named Moses came into contact with the virus through unprotected handling of a couple of stone tablets that fell from the heaven. It has since mutated into various forms, and spread to several other countries including the United States.

The virus spreads through human communication, and enters the body through the person's eyes and ears. It then rapidly invades the nerve and brain tissues in the cranium, in turn leading to pervasive calcification. The symptoms mimic Fahr’s Syndrome, but are much more severe.

Patients always complain of hallucinations, and demonstrate profound, psychotic loss of contact with reality. While the virus could potentially affect all people, it is especially virulent in immortality-compromised older adults. Surprisingly, the virus doesn’t seem to affect infants and children who cannot yet communicate verbally with adults.

In the US, most people infected with RBHS-V have been observed to develop severe delusion, causing them to trample on the rights of others while blaming them for transgressing on their own rights, shred the Bill of Rights and throw it to the winds, claim the nation for their religion, taking a pilgrimage to Kentucky, and otherwise normal behavior of people of faith.

In a now famous case, a four-times married Kentucky clerk, who claims to have contracted the virus four years ago, appears to have completely lost memory of her three previous marriages. Under questioning, she is known assert repeatedly that she strictly follows the rule of “marriage between one man and one woman”, just as her god has willed! When the virus infects people in high places - candidates for the Presidency or the Congress, for example - lesions develop in the Wernicke area of their brain, causing their speech to become more incoherent and nonsensical than usual, bordering on lunacy.

It is strongly advised that patients afflicted with the RBHS-V are kept indefinitely in isolation wards to control and mitigate the spread of this dangerous virus. At the very least, they should be kept as far away from the White House and the Capitol as possible.

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If Trump Is A Christian, Obama Ought To Be A Muslim!

Here is why.

Who is a Muslim? You may have heard about Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, who died this year. He was so popular and dear to the hearts of millions in India that they changed the name of a major thoroughfare in New Delhi from Aurangazeb Marg to Abdul Kalam Marg. One would surmise that Mr. Aurangazeb, a Moghul emperor of 17th century vintage, was neither popular, nor dear to the hearts of millions in India. Actually, they hated him.

Wait, what has all this got to do with Obama and Trump? Patience, patience.

Aurangazeb was a devout Muslim; few would question that. He was so devoted to a 7th century prophet of Islam, that he murdered those who were not so devoted, they say. Dr. Abdul Kalam, apparently, was also a Muslim. It must be true, because India's cultural minister says so:
We have renamed Aurangzeb Road after a person, who despite being a Muslim, is a great nationalist...." the Minister told a news channel.

Not so quick, say Dr. Kalam's critics. Here is what, Dr. Rafiq Zakaria, a well regarded Islamic scholar and former Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, and father of Fareed Zakaria, CNN's host, wrote this about the Muslim-ness of Dr. Kalam:
...But because [Dr. Kalam] was born a Muslim and bears a Muslim name, he should not be put in the same category as the two former Muslim Presidents, Dr Zakir Husain and Mr Fakruddin Ali Ahmed. Both of them were as great a patriot and Indian to the core as Dr Kalam. But they were also Muslims in the real sense of the word; they believed in the tenets of the Quran and faithfully followed the traditions of the Prophet... But for God's sake, don't describe [Dr. Kalam] as a Muslim President...
Dr. Zakaria then goes through a litany of reasons why Dr. Kalam should not be considered a Muslim. Amongst them are his refusal of an invitation to visit the Anjuman-i-Islam "to deliver the famous Seerut lecture to pay homage to the Prophet", his enchantment with the Gita, and an anecdote that he was a vegetarian!
Enough of Abdul Kalam, let me get back to Obama and Trump.

Will Obama qualify as a Muslim by Zakaria's criteria? He is certainly not a vegetarian, and to the best of my knowledge, not as enchanted with the Gita as he is with the US Constitution. That figures, because he was, after all, a professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago. He is, therefore, not as not-a-Muslim as Kalaam was, but is he a Muslim?

Obama's father was a Muslim, but according to reports, he was not a "Muslim in the real sense of the word" — he was an atheist! His father's father was a Muslim, I am told, and according to many other Islamic scholars, that ought to make both Obamas permanent Muslims.

Does President Obama believe in the tenets of the Quran and faithfully follow the traditions of the Prophet? It depends on what tenets and traditions we are talking about. I hear he swears occasionally, but it has never been reported that he "swear[s] by the fig and the olive — [Koran: 95.1]"! Birthers like Trump, who may even believe that Obama is an evil emissary from Saturn, won't dare say that he is married to twelve wives. Not when Michelle Obama is alive!

The bottom line — is Obama a Muslim or not? To answer that question, I turn to another question.

Is Donald Trump a Christian? To seeketh an answer, I asketh not that you read the Bible, but taketh a vacation at the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City or the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas. Who knows, you may even get a chance to meet him personally, ask him that one "Gotcha" question that you have always wanted to ask Trump, "Are you a Christian?" If the answer is "Yes", then we may rationally conclude — Hume could go and hide in a cave — Obama ought to be a Muslim!

Ah, the mess we get ourselves into with all these fictitious identities!
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Forced Marriage

Judge Orders Man To Marry His Girlfriend And Write Down Bible Verses Or Go To Jail | ThinkProgress

Ah, where is this? Must be in Saudi Arabia, but wait... write down Bible verses... hmm, it can't be, can it? Kenya, perhaps? It has got to be one of those failed states, where there is no rule of law, and judges can punish anyone according to their whims and fancies.

What, in Texas? You are kidding, right? Whatever happened to the First Amendment and the separation of church and state, you ask. Well, that's what the Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking in its complaint filed against Judge Randall L. Rogers of the County Court Law2 at Tyle, TX/Smith County.

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The Chimera of Freedom

From Moscow art smashed as Orthodox activists denounce 'blasphemy' - Yahoo News  -
The Manege exhibition centre was the scene of one of the most famous Soviet-era crackdowns on contemporary art. In 1962, then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited an exhibition of abstract painting at the gallery and angrily denounced the artists as “fags” and “bastards.” In 1974, the authorities sent in a bulldozer to destroy an improvised exhibition in a park in southwestern Moscow by avant-garde artists.

So it was in the era of communist dictatorship. Now, it's once again religion's turn. Nothing much has changed, has it?
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