Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Peace sign

I adore this hand-painted billboard, that I snapped near Guntur, Andhra Pradesh three years ago.

It depicts a Jain saint seated peacefully among animals, and (in Telugu script, but Sanskrit language) says "Ahimsa paramo dharma," or, "Nonviolence is the greatest religion." 


Related reading:
Religion and Culture of the Jains.

Heritage, or hate?

Religious or racist?
In Dailekh, Nepal

I'm not saying I have an answer. Just putting it out there.
Parkala Matha

Brahmin priests in Dailekh have padlocked temples of the district to protest a recent verdict of the district court.
...(a) court verdict three months ago imprisoned a Brahmin priest on the charge of untouchability.
On April 12, the court sentenced Dipak Upadhyay... for refusing to tie Raksha Bandhan (holy thread tied around the wrist on Janaipurnima day) to a dalit local.
...Claiming they have the right to perform religious rituals as per their wish, the Brahmin priests padlocked a dozen temples...
District chairman of Hindu Vedic Sanatan Parishad (HVSP), Tilak Rijal, said the priests did not need to perform religious rituals for all the people.
"Practicing untouchability" - that is, discriminating against those traditionally considered of lower Hindu castes - has been made a crime in India and Nepal, though in remote areas such behaviour largely goes unpunished, and many old ways are still observed.

So, is this religious freedom, or racism? Or, at the very least, illegal discrimination? Should the courts be able to tell houses of worship whom they must accomodate? How would we feel if it were a White Supremacist church (they do exist) refusing admission to someone of another race? Is that even a valid analogy? Many Hindu temples specify "Hindus Only"; however, the Dalits themselves are Hindus. Does this mean they have to admit all Hindus regardless of caste?

And if there is a tradition of excluding certain Hindus, how much does the tradition matter? That is, is it beyond the law ?

Just asking questions.
 Related reading:

Monday, April 06, 2009

Witch hunts and scarlet letters

Ring ring, Pot? this is Kettle calling
From Patan to Pakistan

Even a cursory glance at the Indian media and blogosphere shows people getting pretty uppity about the horrific Pakistan flogging case.

Other South Asians don't have room to talk. All this stuff happens regularly in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, and they don't even usuaily do it "in the name of Islam."

Take last week's case of a Nepali girl - not even in a remote region, but here by the urban centre Kathmandu - accused of witchcraft and tortured. Pyuthar village is within Lalitpur District (very near, if not precisely within, the capitol city)

And that, by a primary school headmaster! If this is what the educators are doing, imagine what the "general populace" are up to, or at very least, what an example that sets for them.

I scoured all the reports I saw, and still could not find an account of what exactly the poor girl had actually done, nor of what exactly she'd been accused of doing ("witchcraft" could mean anything at all, from drawing a design on the ground to being seen with the wrong person).

BK was allegedly tortured by villagers in allegation of practicing witchcraft. BK said she was beaten up, abused and even made to eat human excreta by a group of people in the village. Mar 27 09

I am glad, for lack of a better word, that the flogging case is being spotlighted this way - as it deserves. But such treatment is not so unusual, nor restricted to places like Swat Valley. .

Cycle of life

A bicycle built for me

I rented a bike. wheee!!

This is nothing new - I have rented push-bikes in Pondicherry, Pune, Tanjavore and BodhGaya, and Honda motor scooters in many places. But this is my first rental in Kathmandu (way, way over 'Du) and this time I rented a heavy "road bike" with wide tires to deal with the crap roads here in the city.

Ramakrishna Cycles is a completly unpretentious cycle shop over on Sorakhutte near, but not in, Thamel. Dhruba, the shy kid from Dhading who helped me, rented me an aluminum-frame seven-speed bike. I took it for a week and he bargained a bit on the price, but I love it so much, I think I may have to buy one.

Dhruba offered tea to me and my friend Amy. We sat on the low Nepali woven-straw round stools (they look very African in design, come to think of it) behind the counter. Dhruba and his bike shoppe-mates appeared, and sounded like (from their soft voices and genuine smiles), a bit of unspoilt Nepal. That is, they didn't seem cynical and greedy from too much contact with corruption or gangster culture.

I asked Dhruba the standard opening question about his "native place." Dhading is a town just one hour or so outside Kathmandu, but for all its proximity, its living standards are very remote.

The bike makes locals assume you are filthy rich. If it was just an old made-in-India green push bike, I don't think anyone would notice. A nice multispeed road bike? I was *besieged* by waifs and, at the Kal Bhairav shrine, 'attendans' harassing and insisting that I give money to the god (this, while my hands were folded in prayer).

Anyway, unless you get out very, very early in the morning, the old back streets are useless on the bike - you have to get out and walk anyway. The big, ugly, open modern multi-lane roads are negotiable, but in Asian traffic, no one can hear you scream (or honk or pedal). A bell or horn is a definite must for survival!

Survey says....

And, hooray for our side
News from India

At last! Sex and Power, the book by Rita Banerji (creator of the 50 Million Missing project for Indian women) has been released!

It's now available on and last week, was #1 on the Bestseller list of Crosswords (one of India's largest bookstore chains).

The 50 Million Missing project began as a photo collection and has now become an international campaign to stop "India's silent genocide," the selective elimination of female infants and fetuses.

You can easily help the project by taking their Gender attitudes survey.

It only takes four minutes to complete the 50 Million Missing project's gender survey.

Rita says:
1. They don't give their names (it's anonymous) 2. Don't think too much. Just answer. 3. Takes less than 4 mintues 4. Don't forget to click 'submit' at the end

Here's the link

 Related reading: 
Women in Ancient & Medieval India (History of Science, Philosophy & Culture in Indian Civilization)