Saturday, February 7, 2015

Are Some Double Standards Ok ? - Part 1

I am writing this more as a set of questions rather than opinions about which I am completely convinced. The question broadly is : Are Some Double Standards Ok ? Or should all Double Standards be rejected outright as smacking of hypocrisy etc ? Perhaps there is a middle ground as well. Let's see.

Double standards basically mean that different set of principles being applied to judge similar sets of circumstances for different people. In other words, basically different rules for the two sides playing the same game. And when one does not apply rules fairly, the accusation of hypocrisy comes up. In an era where almost every question is answered by - "But what about ....." or he also did this - hence the question is invalid, double standards get highlighted even more. Hence, my question on Are Some Double Standards are Ok ?Or even  - Is Some Hypocrisy (sort of) Ok ?

Let me try and see this question in light of some recent situations:

1) The Obama Religious Freedom "Edification": In a speech in New Delhi, during his presidential visit, Obama asked for upholding religious freedom in India (still a secular, democratic country). He even invoked the constitution (Article 25) - so he was being quite categorical about this. Of course, the media took this as a jibe at the Modi govt and so on. Interestingly enough, just after his India visit, he went to Saudi Arabia to pay his condolences to the departed king there. Obama hasn't made any statement about the condition of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia (an Islamic republic) and so - some people began to question his credentials of questioning India when he doesn't do the same to Saudi Arabia.

The question is : Is this double standard ok ? Should Indians take the criticism (or observation) from Obama seriously or shout hypocrisy on account of his failure to say the same to Saudi Arabia ?

In my opinion - the double standard here - if it indeed can be called that is justified. India, as a self proclaimed - secular country - has to be judged in a different parameter to a theocracy - and so if are not measuring up to our own standards - and it is being pointed out, we have to be big enough to take the criticism. It can be no consolation that religious freedom is better in India than Saudi Arabia - we have to aspire and be judged upon a higher standard.

(Note: I am not further bringing in Obama's comments in his breakfast prayer meeting - it is basically the same point made, but in a little more pointed way).

2) The AAP "Hawala at midnight" row: Without going into the details of it, the double standard in question is very simple. Can BJP & Congress - who themselves do not disclose their funding sources, question AAP - a party which discloses on the details of the person donating - and which is possibly a shell company. At the outset - it is hypocrisy from the other political parties and merely an electoral issue brought in - in the last moment.

In my opinion, AAP has to follow two rules - one laid down by the government and ensure compliance with that. And second - their own standards of transparency - that they proclaim with self righteousness. The jury is still out on this one if they have lived up to the second rule.

3) Conversion/ Ghar Wapasi: The recent controversy regarding assorted members of the Sangh parivar trying to "re-convert" people back to the Hindu fold is well known and was perhaps blown out of proportion by the media. There are many facets in question here - starting from the fundamental right of freedom to practice any religion to the question of inducements and indeed fraud being done. It also brought out lot of talk about the evangelical project in India - which has been going about their business of spreading Christianity - quite successfully it would appear - in various parts of India.
But the one, really interesting argument that I noticed in between all the sound and light being made was this: Christianity and Islam are by definitions proselytizing religions, but Hinduism is not. It is only modern versions of the Hindu religion such as Arya Samaj which have brought in this concept. And so it is fair game for Christians and Muslims to spread their religion through conversions, but not so for Hindus. Hence any and all efforts by Hindu organizations to covert or reconvert people back into the Hindu religion is not acceptable.

I found this line of thinking - the most interesting at a theoretical level. However, it has neither any impact at either the ground level thinking of Hindu Orgs,  nor should the law consider it. The law should be equal for all faith groups. I found Nitin Pai's article on this quite in line with what should happen. The one personal opinion I do have about conversions is that - conversions should be allowed only above the age of 18. If we believe people, only above 18 have the wisdom and intellect to decide who to choose while voting,  I think - it is fair to argue that similarly the decision to change religion can also be looked at in a similar light. It should allay fears of mass conversions being carried out in dubious manner in tribal areas where I do think it is possible that people are converting without sufficient knowledge and facts.

I had quite a few other topics to think about, but this post is almost becoming TLDR, hence breaking it into perhaps two parts. More on this later.

1 comment:

  1. Completely agree with you on religious freedom issue. we are a better nation than the Saudis and the Pakistans of the world. we should not even mention those nations with India in the same sentence on these topics. I am not sure how much of a double standard it is - considering that us and those countries do not have similar standards when it comes to religious freedom
    on funding Issue - its staggeringly hypocritical for other parties( and their supporters) criticize AAP and a bit cynical of the neutrals to criticize AAP. I say cynical because - i believe that at worst AAP can be accused of not doing proper due dilligence, as opposed to clear case of quid pro quo. even then, the fact that they publish the donor list leaves them open to scrutiny. so transparency is achieved in Spirit at least.
    conversions - agree with you that nature of religion should not determine standards. i have my own views on the definition of "forced" though. while its a no brainer that coercion and threats are wrong. not so sure about allurement , purely for the humane angle ie.if nobody cares for you otherwise and you are starving, and somebody offers you to provide you food and shelter- how is one to refuse??? unless we as a society/ or the stae can ensure basic living conditions for all.. this is a moral debate that I am not sure i can take a stand easily on.


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