SOLI LOQUIES: Rising intolerance


October 24, 2005

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Soli Sorabjee in the Indian Express

Rising intolerance

October 11, 2005

The rise of intolerance is alarming. Some years back, Zairus Banaji, because of his critical remarks about Narender Modi, was pushed out of the auditorium in Ahmedabad by Modi loyalists. Any criticism of Sonia Gandhi and her style of functioning by any Congress person is visited with unpleasant consequences. No one dare criticise Bal Thackeray without incurring the wrath of the Shiv Sainiks. What are the reasons for this invincible intolerance? Arrogance and insecurity of one’s position. A person or party which is sure of its standing can take criticism in its stride and confidently counter it.

UK, the oldest democracy, is also not immune from this virus. At a recent Labour conference during which Prime Minister Tony Blair was defending UK’s role in the Iraq war, an old and respected Labourite shouted: ”Nonsense”. He was promptly shunted out of the hall by some intolerant Labourites. The saving grace was that Blair publicly apologised for this disgraceful incident.

Musical instruments

Knowledge of musical instruments and their sounds is helpful for appreciation of an orchestral work in which violins, violas, cellos, double bass, trumpets, trombones, French horns, bassoon, oboe, clarinet and drums have their distinctive roles. At present, recorder, a wind instrument, is out of vogue. The German musician, Telemann (1681-1767), composed a number of works for the recorder and concerned himself intensively with its technical and musical possibilities. The sound of the recorder is very pleasing and reminds me of the clarinet, my favourite instrument, which despite valiant attempts I could not master and hit the high C with the ease Artie Shaw does in his immortal Concerto for Clarinet. The following excerpt from Telemann’s autobiography shows his keenness to establish the particular qualities of an instrument and explore them:

The violin after the organ is tackled
the flute, oboe and trumpet too,
the gamba follows along in the bass,
only with here and there a trill.
No, no, it is not enough
that the notes just sound
that you know only how to take your wares
to market.
Give each instrument
what it can bear,
so the player has pleasure
and you have enjoyment from it.
This is the quintessence of a musical concert.

Fixing rapists

Hardly a day passes without mention in the media of rapes on females young and old. Have we become a rape crazy nation? Or is sexual molestation mistakenly regarded as rape? Our Supreme Court has relaxed the burden of proof and recently ruled that the bare statement of the rape victim if it inspires confidence is sufficient to sustain conviction. One wonders how far these judicial dicta will help in combating rape. What would be instantly effective is a South African inventor’s anti-rape female condom called ”Rapex”. It is a device made of latex and worn like a tampon. It is held firm by shafts of sharp barbs and hooks onto an attacker’s penis and can be removed from the man only through surgery. It thus allows the victim time to escape and helps to identify the perpetrator. Thus there is instant detection and punishment.

Should we import Rapex to curb the menace of rape and to cripple the rapist? No Court is likely to pronounce the use of Rapex as inflicting cruel inhuman and degrading punishment on the rapist and violative of his fundamental rights.

But remember: Rapex can be a terrible tool in the hands of unreasonable wives who refuse normal sex to their husbands whom they dislike because of baseless suspicion of infidelity and imaginary list of ill-treatment. But then what about marital rape? The issue indeed is complex. The best course is to refer the matter to the Law Commission functioning under its erudite chairman, Justice M Jagannadha Rao, who will look into every aspect of the matter and submit a comprehensive report. After the report we may evolve an improved version of Rapex. Amen.