July 10, 2009

The phalanx

Nothing unites quite like ... homosexuality.

"Clerics from the Muslim, Christian, Jain and Sikh communities held a joint press conference to denounce the judgement, insisting that homosexuality was opposed to the laws of nature and the will of God ."

"With some Hindu leaders having already condemned the judgement and well-known yoga guru Swami Ramdev announcing his intention to contest it in court, the phalanx of religious opinion opposed to the verdict is complete."

("Clerics flay order, SC seeks govt opinion", Hindustan Times, July 10 2009)

A previous version of the report quotes the Jain cleric saying "Our views should be kept in mind when the government takes any stand on the judgement", and the Muslim cleric backing that with "The government should take our views seriously." (Apart from the claims of knowledge of the will of god).

Actually, why? Why should the government be interested in the views of these folks, let alone take them seriously?

All said and done, I like that word "phalanx". It sums up perfectly what we see here: a united effort to perpetuate prejudice.


Anonymous said...

The chattering classes have their wine, men and women and their pastimes. The faithful have nothing other than their faith. Government will have to listen to the faithful.


Suresh said...


I am surprised. In a democracy, a government is expected to take note of the opinions of all its citizens. Can you clarify why you think that the opinions of the clerics (who are also citizens) should not count on this issue? Let me clarify that "taking note" does not mean that the clerics have some sort of "veto right" on this (or any other) issue.

Dilip D'Souza said...


True enough. Put it down to being annoyed as hell by this, and to being sure personally that I am uninterested in the prejudices exhibited by these gents. (Meaning I will never take them seriously).

Having said that, that I think there's a place for recognizing abhorrent views for what they are. Would we "take their views seriously" if they said "Being deaf is opposed to the laws of nature and the will of God"?

Suresh said...

Would we "take their views seriously" if they said "Being deaf is opposed to the laws of nature and the will of God"?

Obnoxious, yes. But if such views represent the views of a sizable group then the government has to take note.

Talking of obnoxious views of clerics, I've felt it personally. My father lost his right arm in an accident at the age of 65. Remarkably, he has managed to overcome this without complaint and now does everything - including cooking - using his left hand which is not his natural hand. However what hurts him is the fact that many in Madras look down upon him for the simple fact that he has only his left hand which is "unclean." He once told me that in one temple, the priest who was distributing the prasad simply chose to ignore him when he found my father holding out his left hand! So, yes, I am deeply aware of such idiots but then I remind myself that idiots are not confined to the ranks of the religious only.

It would be nice if the world didn't contain such people. But there are such people, and in a democracy, their views count too.

Azous D'Pilid said...

Ah D'Souza's hypocrisy finally comes out. Well done D'Souza. It was fine when these people were being persecuted, then we must respect their opinion. But once they're doing the persecution, all of a sudden, let's ignore them. BTW, have you set a date for your lesbian coming-out party?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Suresh, this is good. Let's take this thought experiment further then. If a "sizable" number of people just happen to believe that deaf people should be put to death, should a government take note of that view?

Is it the view, or the number of people who hold it, that's important?

I'm appalled by your story about your father. Would be great to meet him when I'm next in Madras.

Slogan Murugan said...

Well, all the court did was decriminalise it.

Suresh said...


I see your point but if a sizable section of our population does hold views which are beyond the pale ("execute all deaf people"), then arguably, the government should take note of it because it indicates that something is seriously wrong in our society.

Anyway, I don't think that we disagree much at all. All I'm saying is that in formulating policies, a government does have to take account of the views of its populace. Otherwise, even a well-intentioned policy can come to naught. Even worse, a policy formulated without ascertaining the wishes of those affected can end up creating havoc. As the author of a book on the Sardar Sarovar Project, you probably know this all too well and our post-independence history is full of such instances.

With regard to homosexuality, I first of all agree that personally I find some of the religious leaders obnoxious. However, I'd still argue that we should take note of what they say because they do represent the views of a significant part of our population. There is also another, very pragmatic reason. Suppose our government decides to bite the bullet and remove Section 377. In doing so, it will have to take into account the possibility that those opposing it may create troube and plan for that contingency. Hence, obnoxious as the views of Swami Ramdev (for example) are, it would be foolish of the government not to take note of what he says.

To sum, I agree that we cannot formulate policies by simply saying "that's what the majority wants." If that's what you interpreting me as saying, then sorry - but that's not what I meant. I meant something weaker: the wishes of the majority are one but not the only factor. There are many other considerations too: among other things, human rights, what our constitution says etc. etc.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Suresh, perhaps we do agree more than disagree. Yes, a government must take multiple views into account, and that's the only way to formulate policy.

Perhaps what I'm getting at is what I always feel is the measure of a true statesman: the courage to take what might appear to be an unpopular decision, only because it is some sense "right" -- and then explain to his countrymen why taking it is in their best interests.

In this case, for example, it works like this: I feel the pronouncement that homosexuality is "opposed to the laws of nature and the will of God" is a profoundly wrong one, on various counts. So I'd love to see Manmohan Singh, for example, taking the lead to do away with Section 377, and then telling us clearly and firmly why he did it and why it is good for India that he did.

Sometimes, statesmen must lead.