Public decency and morality

This is what Supreme Court of India had to say when petition was filed to lift a ban in 1964 on Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence:

It is convenient to set out s. 292 of the Indian Penal Code at this stage:

“292. Sale of obscene books etc. : Whoever- (a) sells, lets to hire, distributes, publicly exhibits or in any manner puts into circulation, or for purposes of sale, hire, distribution, public exhibition or circulation, makes, produces or has in his possession any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, drawing, painting, representation or figure or any other obscene object whatsoever, or

(b) imports, exports or conveys any obscene object for any of the purposes aforesaid, or knowing or having reason to believe that such object will be sold, let to hire, distributed or publicly exhibited or in any manner put into circulation, or

(c) takes part in or receives profits from any business in the course of which he knows or has reason to believe that any such obscene objects are, for any of the purposes aforesaid, made, produced, purchased, kept, imported, exported, conveyed, publicly exhibited or in any manner put into circulation, or

(d) advertises or makes known by any means whatsoever that any person is engaged or is ready to engage in any act which is an offence under this section, or that any such obscene object can be procured from or through any person, or

(e) offers or attempts to do any act which is an offence -under this section,

19(1) All citizens shall have the right-

(a) to freedom of speech and expression; (2) Nothing -in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of public order, decency or morality”

No doubt this article guarantees complete freedom of speech and expression but it also makes an exception in favour of existing laws which impose restrictions on the exercise of the right in the interests of public decency or morality.

Condemnation of obscenity depends as much upon the mores of the people as upon the individual. It is always a question of degree or as the lawyers are accustomed to say, of where the line is to be drawn. It is, however, clear that obscenity by itself has extremely “poor value in the-propagation of ideas, opinions and informations of public interest or profit.” When there is propagation of ideas, opinions and informations of public interest or profit, the approach to the problem may become different because then the interest of society may tilt the scales in favour of free speech and expression. It is thus that books on medical science with intimate illustrations and photographs, though in a sense immodest, are not considered to be obscene but the same illustrations and photographs collected in book form without the medical text would certainly be considered to be obscene.

“I think the test of obscenity is this, whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deperave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall. . . . . it is quite certain that it would suggest to the minds of the young of either sex, or even to persons of more advanced years, thoughts of a most impure and libidinous character.”

He wants us to say that a book is not necessarily obscene because there is a word here or a word there, or a passage here and a passage there which may be offensive to particularly sensitive persons. He says that the overall effect of the book should be the test and secondly, that the book should only be condemned if it has no redeeming merit at all, for then it is “dirt for dirt’s sake”, or as Mr. Justice Frankfurter put it in his inimitable way “dirt for money’s sake.

We need not attempt to bowdlerize all literature and thus rob speech and expression of freedom. A balance should be maintained between freedom of speech and expression and public decency and morality but when the latter is substantially transgressed the former must give way.

The taboo on sex in art and literature which was more strict thirty-five years ago, seemed to him to corrode domestic and social life and his definite view was that a candid discussion of sex through art was the only catharsis for purifying and relieving the congested emotion is.

“The law seeks to protect not those who protect themselves, but those whose prurient minds take delight and sexual pleasures from erotic writings.”

via | Ranjit D. Udeshi vs State Of Maharashtra on 19 August, 1964

The word “obscene” in the section is not limited to writings, pictures etc. intended to arouse sexual desire. At the same time the mere treating with sex and nudity in art and literature is not per se evidence of obscenity.

Exception. – This section does not extend to any book, pamphlet, writing, drawing or painting kept or used bona fide for religious purposes or any representation sculptured, engraved, painted or otherwise represented on or in any temple, or on any car used for the conveyance of idols, or kept or used for any religious purpose.”

This was I think long back, but the views have not changed ever since the. The idea that somethings are bad for everyone is something which all cultures adhere to, and it is very hard for people, especially people in power to let this notion go. This is another way of controlling people. This is what is common to fundamentalism and democracy. The notion that our past was a golden one, and anything new will harm it and jeopardize the future of the culture. From what I feel is that there was no golden past, it just was.

And thinking about morality, though they say that there are some universal principles, everyone does not subscribe to same ones. In his theory Kohlberg, outlines these differences. But that said, he does not talk about obscenity, which I think it is highly cultural. For example a burqa clad woman is a common picture in certain Islamic communities, or a woman with ghunghat is all but common in certain Hindu communities, but at the same time some people might be find it too restrictive. And a woman in short skirt might be a common scene in the urban areas in certain countries, but it might be a great taboo for some others. There are no universal standards for what counts as moral or decent.

 

 

Gaza Blitz hailed?

It is important to keep this in mind given the accusations of “disproportionality” being hurled at Israel from all directions. They are hogwash. The Jewish state cannot be faulted — but rather should be hailed — for investing precious human capital and limited financial resources to develop a technological miracle: Iron Dome. By intercepting in the last week upwards of 400 rockets destined for Israeli civilian centres, the anti-missile defence system saved countless Israeli lives. Likewise, it also saved Palestinian lives, which surely would have been lost in the event the IDF was forced to retaliate for a direct hit, say, on Tel Aviv.

This is in stark contrast to Hamas’ practice of concealing weaponry in residential buildings, schools, hospitals and mosques, thereby guaranteeing the unnecessary loss of life despite the precision of Israeli strikes.

via Gaza| National Post

Ah! This piece of writing is as crappy – biased – hogwash – etc. etc. (are these the right words?, am at a loss of what words to put here) as it can get. And it is not language that is at fault, by the very idea. The idea that Israel can do anything it wishes, without fearing any consequences is what is through an through present in this line of thoughts. The state of Israel has become the new “Untouchable”. The writer glorifies the killing and pounding of the Gaza region, with a logic that is truly cigol. What he claims as a mere “hogwash”, is the reality which the state of Israel is desperately trying to hide, and this with full support of the corporate and major media houses.  Maybe the author is trying to make this fact oblivious (and wants us to be also ) that Israel is the occupying force, and they hold superior fire power. To say killings and bombings should ” but rather be hailed” the author is making an ideological analogy to the holocaust. If someone on the other hand with same argument had replaced Jews instead of Gazans, and justified the killings, there would have been a huge  cry over this. If these killings can be justified, no wait, rather hailed now, why are the Israelis so much adamant that people see the faulty logic and the tragedy of the holocaust. I think this is the same only with the Israelis taking up the place of executioners with impeccable cigol to support their actions.

After all as Orwell says:

War is Peace | Freedom is Slavery  | Ignorance is Strength

And this is what is exactly being practiced here.

Oh and will I get a phone call for this?

‘to criticise Israel can create major problems. Journalists spoke to us of the extraordinary number of complaints which they receive. We have presented our findings to many groups of media practitioners. After one such meeting a senior editor from a major BBC news programme told us: “we wait in fear for the phone call from the Israelis”. He then said that the main issues they would face were from how high up had the call come (e.g. a monitoring group, or the Israeli embassy), and then how high up the BBC had the complaint gone (e.g. to the duty editor or the director general).’ (p. 2)

via | medialens

May be not because I am not a journalist, neither is my blog very famous!

Free Press and Democracy

A free press is an essential part of a democratic system. In a society like ours, with its stark inequalities, only a media free of government and corporate pressures can ensure that the voiceless are heard. What we are seeing currently is not just blatant collusion between the media and big business but also a deliberate obliteration of much of what happens to the millions who live on the margins.

via Economic and Political Weekly

This is what Media Lens has to say about the BBC which is supposed to be in public interest and impartial.

Instead of providing responsible, public-service journalism, the BBC acts as a conduit for government propaganda. It is particularly noxious that the organisation relentlessly channels the state’s supposedly benign intentions abroad. This is the diet of daily bias and distortion we are all fed. When will BBC heads roll for that?

But isn’t this true of the media in India also? Or elsewhere in the world for that matter. Tehelka reports that many of the barons of power also control the local media in newly formed state of Chattisgad. And what is the use of controlling media when they are not used for gains. When the so called free media becomes a part of the political parties we cannot be sure of what they report.

If the Congress has Naveen Jindal, the BJP has Ajay Sancheti. If the Congress has the Lokmat, the BJP has the Hari Bhoomi. Barring coal, in which both the Centre and the states had their hands in the till, in the case of other mineral resources, the real corruption lies in the states.

It is not that people do not use media for their own gain, media is used for spreading ideology, there are many mouthpiece outlets for political parties and others which propagate the ideas. But what is worst is that the masquerade that many media houses put on themselves claiming to be honest and working in public interest, and people at large believe them, being obliviousto the fact that these very media houses are the ones who are power brokers and very much in the filth as corporates and politicians. A recent example of this was the Radia tapes.

The complete blackout of the Niira Radia tapes by the entire broadcast media and most of the major English newspapers paints a truer picture of corruption in the country than the talk shows in the various news channels and the breast-beating in all the newspapers about the 2G, CWG, Adarsh, and other scams.

via|G. Sampath – DNA

It was not until the non-main-stream media began to show up too much, there was some coverage given. But the very fact that the accused are in complete denial of what happened is what is disturbing. We usually held names like Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi well but these tapes just show how much they are in the filth of what they pretend to expose. From then on, I have given up on NDTV as a reliable source, which earlier I thought it was. But then what do you trust?

At the same time, it is worth noting that neither Barkha nor any of the other journalists whose names have come up have denied that those conversations took place. So why not let the reader or TV viewer read or listen to the transcripts and decide whether Dutt and Sanghvi’s conversations with Radia are a part of “normal journalistic duties” or amount to pimping for politicians and business houses? Or perhaps they were doing social service for the Congress? Play the tapes on your show, na, Ms Dutt, instead of tweeting about them? Why not let ‘We, The People’ decide, instead of you deciding for us all?

via|G. Sampath – DNA

The media blackout of particular events is what I find disturbing. What it shows the kind of camaraderie that exists between different media houses and their corporate and political cronies. That basically means that the news, sorry the Breaking News that you see is like a managed play, with directors and writers deciding what people see, hear and think. In Marathi novel (Ithink it was Swami (स्वामी) by Ranjit Desai) I had read a sentence which fits these situations well, it reads:

मी मारल्या सारखे करतो, तु रडल्या सारखे कर.

( I will feign to hit, you feign to cry.)

This creates an illusion about real problems. Most of the News channels that are beamed in India follow this line. Put all the focus on some non-issues, or twist them from certain angles so that why all this happens remains oblivious to the viewers. If our media was after all serious about the issues that they present, they would have seen to it that things are done.

Many a times what I have also found reading reports on various different news services is that they are same. I mean many a times they are word to word same, as if the reports have been written at one place and distributed. I do not have links right now, but will update this post when I do. This again creates a picture that what news we see is heavily filtered, and sometimes flavours are added to create sensationalism. And the icing is that we all think this is genuine, with “Free Press in A Democracy”. Orwell had a foresight about this as well:

Of course, print will continue to be used, and it is interesting to speculate what kinds of reading matter would survive in a rigidly totalitarian society. Newspapers will presumably continue until television technique reaches a higher level, but apart from newspapers it is doubtful even now whether the great mass of people in the industrialized countries feel the need for any kind of literature. They are unwilling, at any rate, to spend anywhere near as much on reading matter as they spend on several other recreations. Probably novels and stories will be completely superseded by film and radio productions. Or perhaps some kind of low grade sensational fiction will survive, produced by a sort of conveyor-belt process that reduces human initiative to the minimum.

via The Prevention of Literature | George Orwell

The only reason I see that India is feudal and corrupt is that the so called Free Press was never able to take up the challenge to the nexus, and ultimately now has become a part of it.

In our age, the idea of intellectual liberty is under attack from two directions. On the one side are its theoretical enemies, the apologists of totalitarianism, and on the other its immediate, practical enemies, monopoly and bureaucracy.

via The Prevention of Literature | George Orwell

Though there are dissidents here and there, this now has become global phenomena, with the Indian media people just following the suit. And if this is the case, what difference does it make whether you are living in a democracy or a totalitarian state?

And Orwell wraps it up thus:

A totalitarian society which succeeded in perpetuating itself would probably set up a schizophrenic system of thought, in which the laws of common sense held good in everyday life and in certain exact sciences, but could be disregarded by the politician, the historian, and the sociologist. Already there are countless people who would think it scandalous to falsify a scientific textbook, but would see nothing wrong in falsifying an historical fact. It is at the point where literature and politics cross that totalitarianism exerts its greatest pressure on the intellectual.

via The Prevention of Literature | George Orwell

 

Khuda Ke Liye [In the Name of God]

Much I had heard about the movie Khuda Ke Liye [खुदा के लिए] by Shohaib Mansoor, before I went to see it. The chance I had to see it in the month before did not materialise. I was all set to see the movie when I got the chance this time. When everyone who has seen the movie, gives you good reports about it, your own expectations from the movies are a bit elevated. So was my case, and IMHO, the movie did not fail my expectations. But in seeing the movie I could not keep my Indian bias away, and I could see and relate to it only through that. The movie has three focal themes, formation of a fundamentalist, women rights, American view towards Muslims post 9/11. 

The movie starts with a rehearsal of a music concert for the new years eve, which is targeted by right wing fundamentalists. The scene is reminiscent of so many things that happen here. The lead singers are brothers Mansoor [played by Shan, if Salmaan Khan gets too fat he will probably resemble him] and  Sarmad [played by Fawad]. They are from an elite family. The family is progressive in its outlook towards life. What is emphasised in portraying this family is that you don’t have to be staunch fundamentalist to live by one’s religion. The location of the family could have been very well set in India or anywhere, without much difference. The two brothers who have more or less a shared life and ideals till now, which diverge as the younger one is influenced by some Islamic fundamentalists. The character of the Maulana Tahiri [played by Rasheed Naz] is one of the most impressive characters in the film. The power and control that he displays while delivering the dialogues is great. 

The entire process of conversion of Sarmad from a pop singer to almost becoming a fundamentalist is perfectly shown. Slowly but surely Maulana Tahiri changes Sarmad’s outlook in a very convincing way. The Maulana seems to have justification for every act that is considered pro-liberal. With such convincing attitude he manages to convert Sarmad from a pop singer, who does not even do namaaz, to a dedicated follower of Islam. The change in Sarmad’s outlook is very visible, as now he considers the music which has been his soul as blasphemous. When he asks his mother to have a hijaab, removes the photos from his home, the family realizes that the things are just about to go out of hand. Just change the characters and the process is equally applicable to any fundamentalist group. Is this not reminiscent of how all the fundamentalists find their new cadres? When reasoned in a biased way, even the most idiotic things appear to be correct and justified. Just consider the politics of hate that is being perpetrated in India.

The other major theme in the movie is with respect to women’s rights. Mary [played by Iman Ali] is a British Muslim girl, born to a Pakistani father. The father has himself married and is living with a British women, but takes a complete U turn when it comes to his only daughter. Thus he is ready to sacrifice the life of his daughter, in order not to become “a laughing stock of the entire Pakistani community.” By deception he takes his daughter to Pakistan to get her married. This is because otherwise her offsprings would be out of Islam, which is a crime. When his brother [Sarmad and Mansoor’s father] refuses to take part in this act of forcible marrying Mary to one of his son’s, the desperate father approaches Sarmad. Sarmad who is assured by Maulana that this would be a noble deed indeed, takes the father and daughter to the remote tribal area on the Afghan-Pak border. In this remote area Mary is forcibly married off to Sarmad, who does this in order to save the religion. Is this not a common story? Heard not only in tribal and rural areas of Pakistan, but also in urban areas of India?

Meanwhile Mansoor is off to America for musical training. In America he finds a mate and enjoys the learning of music there. As the time passes the two become close and finally decide to get married. Just as they get married 9/11 takes place. And Mansoor is taken into custody for being a “terrorist”. Meanwhile Sarmad has changed almost into a fully fundamentalist, makes Mary pregnant forcibly so that she cannot flee from the village, which she has tried once before. The situation of the women in the remote area of Pakistan is not different from that of many women in urban parts of India. Only maybe a freedom of clothes is there, otherwise the fact remains that most of the women are powerless, inspite of the fact that they are educated. 

The liberation that is provided to the women is a psuedo one I believe in most of the cases. The choices that a woman can make are already limited by men, but they may not be explicit. The story of Mary is also that of innumerable other women who are forced into marriage by their family. This is story which is also repeated in India in all the states, in all the religions, and classes. This aspect has more to do with gender than with religion. Had Mary being a male, things would have been entirely different, her relationship with a white would have gone unnoticed.

During the film the main characters don’t loose their Pakistani character and identity. When Mansoor is being tortured in America, the dilemma of progressive muslims is perfectly portrayed. Back in Pakistan they are targeted as being, “liberal” in America they are seen as the face of terrorism, with which they themselves do not identify with. Also the dumbness of the American agencies, just in order to get some leads is exposed. This is true for numerous cases which happened post 9/11. 

All muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are muslims.

So all the three focal themes of the film are derived from real experiences of people, which makes them feel real and appealing. 

 

Just as things get worse for Mansoor, Sarmad goes for war, things get a bit better for Mary. She is finally able to call for help, and the help does come. She is taken back to Lahore, where she decides to take to court, her husband Sarmad. In what follows in court the intense dialogs try to evoke the logic behind all this matter. Each side is presented in a balanced way, with their own perspectives and logic. To say that Maulana Tahiri is completely wrong is to miss the point of what is being told. Every character has a world view, the point is to understand that from our perspective. Here the guest appearance of Naseer-ud-din Shah as Moulana Wali, is simple superb.What is being portrayed that the interpretation that most people have about any fundamental thing can be multifaceted. One chooses the examples in such a way so as to fit one’s world view, whereas simply and conveniently disregarding the rest of them which do not fit in. When Moulana Wali is called by the court as a religious expert to present the Islamic views on forced marriage, music and other things the view presented are that of a thinker who puts Islam in an entirely new perspective. The views expressed appeal also to the mind, and not only to heart. But people like Moulana Wali are a few, and mostly unheard. Finally at the end of the film, Mary choses to stay back in Pakistan to start a school, Mansoor is deported to Pakistan in a paraplegic state, and Sarmad realizes his mistakes.

As for the music of the film, it is well merged with the visuals. The chants of Allah, Allah … during some of the tense sequels do fit in well. The characters and the story of the film though set in Pakistan, and has a distinct Pakistani touch to it, is equally applicable to many situations. The characters of the film can be set in any situation, where there are fundamentalists forces at play, and so is the story. The dilemma of progressive Muslims is perfectly captured by the director. How the situation changed for many post 9/11 is also effectively shown. The last letter of Mansoor touches ones heart, by telling that you don’t have to punish an entire community for the wrongs of few. This being the directoral debut of Shoaib Mansoor, kudos to him for showing such boldness on screen and capturing what most people knew, but could not show to others. And doing this in Pakistani industry deserves another credit, may he continue making good films, and may more follow him.

So my final rating: 4.7/5 [Must See]