Seeking Pseudo-Salvation

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”

                                                                                       ― Warsan Shire

People from North Korea who travel for so many miles through such horrific conditions to free themselves from the chains of misery cannot tactfully be portrayed as lazy benefit scroungers. Regardless, the asylum seekers from North Korea are treated as economic migrants by China. Almost all the repatriated defectors are subject to inhumane treatments but they still choose to boldly cross over the river to see the distant lights flickering everyday as rays of hope.

China, a permanent member of the UNSC,  flagrantly disregards the North Koreans’ refugee rights in China despite knowing that sending them back to Pyongyang would mean torture or even death.Under the Article 33 (1) of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees :“No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

China believes allowing North Korean refugees not only jeopardizes diplomatic ties with North Korea, but also affects national interests. The main concern of China is governing the stay of a large amount of refugees along with the country’s own mammoth population.

Why would someone risk being tortured, arbitrarily detained, into forced labour, raped or even being killed and migrate to a place where they aren’t even welcome – miles away from home – if it wasn’t their absolute last resort? Thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, denying someone the right to escape the clutches of a gory abyss, the ‘axis of evil’ created by Kim Jong is simply ridiculing the untold norms of humanity.

The Jews hid from Hitler for they feared being shoved into concentration camps. The North Koreans flee their homeland for they know very little of what it’s like to live outside of a concentration camp. China is safeguarding the interests of its citizens, its economy and political ties and though it sympathises with the refugees, it chooses not to tackle the problem. Is that the going rate for a human life today? Haven’t our brothers and sisters already paid the price for freedom? If you can’t extend a helping hand, at least let them be.

Since when did all the pseudo-comfort zones we created for existing consume our humanity and conveniently rid us of it?

A Clash Of Cultures

‘Ew!’, cried little Mike, ‘what are you even doing?’

‘I’m just eating, can’t you see?’, retorted little Om, with a frown.

‘Yikes! You’re disgusting!’, Mike went on, loudly enough to gather the attention of the entire class.

‘You’re really mean!’, fumbled little Om as he burst out crying, ‘what’s wrong with me eating?’

‘You’re eating without a spoon, with your hands,’ said little Tim from behind, ‘and that’s just awful.’

And so, little Om went home crying on the first day of school.

Finding out who’s at fault here shouldn’t be very difficult, as one might spontaneously accuse Mike or even little Tim for this grave a felony. Although, why? Is it wrong that Mike thought that eating with one’s hands was bad? Is it wrong that he was taught to eat with spoons? Is it wrong that Tim thought like Mike did? Or is it wrong that they spoke their minds?

They’re only kids – who’d just begun schooling – who’d seen and heard whatever they had until then within the confines of their homes. They’d perhaps seen their parents only eat with cutlery for as long as they had lived and thus naturally believed that it was the only, or rather, the ‘good’ way to eat. After all, what we believe, what we think and consequently, what we do, is heavily dependent on our experiences. These experiences build the ‘eyes within our eyes’, making us see the world the way we do. As in the case above, the ‘homes’ we live in as individuals can be a euphemism for family, locality, culture, tradition, religion, country and various other similar divisions of an organised society.

When we come across people we analyse them, or more frankly, we judge them. This could well be a potential evolutionary trait, as it sets up an idea of the possible opportunities or harms a person might harbor. The parameters for this judgement are provided by the eyes within.  So, when people from other ‘homes’ come by, they are subject to this mental scrutiny, designed almost entirely by these ‘homes’ we belong to. This evaluation of an individual’s personality or motives juxtaposed against one’s own standards, comprises the central ideology of ethnocentrism.

It might seem backward amidst today’s strides for global cultural acceptance, but what we need to understand is that it is a naturally ingrained mental phenomenon and is nothing wrong, at least not in its basic definition. It’s what we do with it that makes it correct or incorrect. Stereotypes exist and there’s no denying that, so the sooner we accept this and realize the need for eliminating the negativity associated with being judgmental, the better it is for our future.

The question is, how shall we identify and then eliminate this negativity. For the former, the problem lies with how we treat people once we’ve gauged them. If you think it’s weird when a Muslim man bows down in a garden in the evening, no one’s stopping you. Instead if you go on to stop him from doing so, just because you don’t find it normal, you’re being questionable. If you think it’s inappropriate for two men to love one another, you’re free to think so. But if you try to deny them their rights due to this, just because you find it unusual, you stand on morally grey grounds. If you think it’s wrong for a woman to roam the streets late midnight, you absolutely can, but if you justify that as reason for her getting raped, you need help. Understanding that you may be the ‘others’ you’ve been judging all along for someone else; putting yourself in their place and realizing how your actions could affect those ‘others’; and that we are all diverse forms of the same living species, solves the latter half of the question.

Your ‘normal’ is only yours. So it’s best you keep it to yourself!

A Plan to Save the World

The 2016 edition of IITG MUN saw some of the sharpest minds from all over India participate in heated, intellectual debates over international issues such as unregulated arms trade and Reforms of the UN. IITG MUN in association with UNICEF held a pre-conference article writing contest on the topic “What are the key challenges for India with regard to Children (0-18 years) and/or adolescents (10-19 years) outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals”. We are proud to announce the results of the pre contests article writing contest:

First Place: Saurav Kumar Dutta

Article: Role of Children in Making India Developed and the Accomplishment of SDG

Second Place: Priyamvada Jain

Article: Priyamvada Jain

Third Place: Barasha Priam Nath

Article: Barasha Priyam Nath

 

Ephemeral Empathy

Spur of the moment phenomena direct most of our lives today. The hundreds of assaults that took place on New Year’s Eve in Cologne were obviously condemnable. The event, described as TAHARRUSH GAMEA, made it to the international front forthwith. Thanks, perhaps, to facebook pages and the twitterati, the air got high on radical ideas and the human brains decisively co-ordinated and lead us all straight out of our comfy homes to rally against the ‘happening’.

Taharrush gamea is an Arab word meaning collective public harassment of a woman by a group of 20-30 men. Two sets of men encircle the woman; while the inner circle assaults, gropes and pulls at the woman – often tearing her clothes apart and sometimes even raping the woman – the outer circle tries to keep the public distracted. Then, the outer circle moves in and exchanges roles with the inner circle to commit the same unimaginable horrors on the woman. To think that an idea so horrifying originated in the 21st century itself (in some Muslim Nations), only to keep women journalists at bay, leaves one uncertain for the future of our world.

But, undoubtedly, assaults have happened since time immemorial, and everywhere in the world. Only when it happens in this manner, in those Muslim Nations, is it termed as Taharrush Gamea. Otherwise, it is simply called harassment. The Cologne attack was termed Taharrush SOLELY because the offenders were Muslim.

So one can wonder, has a similar thing never happened before? Has a woman never been assaulted in Cologne, or anywhere in the rest of the world? Why do only ‘big’ events lead us out to the streets? And why have we always been prejudiced against all of Islam?

According to WHO, one in every three women has been sexually assaulted at least once in her lifetime. I’m sure we haven’t witnessed a ‘million’ protests rising up against sexual assault, while each of those million victims did experience an equally horrible event. Once we are done with protesting, the event fades into oblivion within no time. The dos and don’ts we draw up once in a year during the ‘big’ events end up more like those set of rules we’d deliberately forget. We need to change this attitude of ours. We need to be affected by every small event, by every inhumane move people make.

Agreed, the offenders were migrants and Muslims. But, not all migrants or Muslims should be forced to bear the brunt of the blame of the people – who want all the migrants out of Germany just because of a few hooligans who exist in every country, cutting across all religions. Most of the migrants were genuinely escaping destruction and war in their original countries, and they desired no violence because they obviously had had their share in their lifetime. Holistically speaking, shouldn’t we be a little considerate towards them?

BUT – let the above discussion not leave an impression that we should pour our hearts out to the offenders too. Our guards need to be strengthened, because when offenders end up stating so shamelessly -“I am a Syrian, you have to treat me nicely—Mrs. Merkel invited me!” (Thanks to the liberal open door policy that ‘Mrs. Merkel’ implemented)- we know that people have started taking advantage of a sensitive situation.

 

Free of All but Responsibility

Freedom is among the most cherished possessions of mankind. Pertaining to the tendencies of the human race, freedom provides contentment, but, it brings with itself an overflow of responsibilities. It must be kept in mind that one’s freedom shouldn’t give one the right to impede another’s freedom. The ones who have freedom also have to think upon the right and wrong of their decisions. Freedom is not absolute. It needs to be respected and upheld, and at the same time, it needs to be checked.

“Supreme Court Judge says that her daughters are liabilities.” This caption along with the photograph of justice Gyan Sudha Misra was published on the front page of an English newspaper. During the disclosure of liabilities and assets, Misra had written: “two daughters to be married” in the column against liabilities. Admittedly, there was no need to mention this as only legal liabilities were to be stated, nevertheless, the newspaper was totally misleading as Ms. Misra’s intention was only to tell that she would have to spend upon her daughters’ marriage. It does not prove that her feelings and emotions towards her children were based upon the monetary expenditure of their nuptials. There are numerous cases where the media has focused upon stories merely for the TRP, and has ignored issues of greater importance. Media and press constitute an important part of society as they are fundamental in shaping our world view. Thus a judicious use of freedom and powers is important.

When we use terms like “responsibility”, it might be viewed as giving powers to the state to curtail the rights of citizens for any reasons which are favorable to them. For example, the Press Law of Syria forbids reporting on topics that are considered to be sensitive by the government. Thus the two notions of freedom and responsibility seem to contradict each other.

The depth this contradiction can attain was witnessed subsequent to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. On one side, Islamists have argued that religion should not be subject to ridicule while on the other hand, people have blamed the extremists for their actions. The claim of the French government of being a protector of free speech came into light as pro-Palestine demonstrations were banned in Paris. Many questions were raised by the international community, some being: was it right to ban the burqa? Is it sufficient to condemn the extremists or do we need to argue upon blasphemy and religious beliefs?

Ideally this battle between the ideologies of responsibility and freedom can be resolved, but our world is far from being ideal. It is difficult to draw the line where freedom should end and responsibility should begin. And who is authorized to draw this line? Should all the powers be given to the government or should there be a scope of individual judgment?

Blurred Lines

We live in an age of more. Every single day, thousands of new companies join the fray to climb to the top of the corporate ladder. This world is ruthless, tossing aside those who do not push the envelope, those who do not take risks. Multinational giants along their way to the top often cross moral lines – entering into ethically grey areas. On such instances who should be held accountable for their misdeeds, the country harboring the company, or the company itself?

Such organizations operate across several countries, often having multiple subsidiaries increasing the complexity of their financial structure. They bank on the fact that different countries have different laws. Such firms establish themselves in countries with laws favorable to them, and herein lies the crux of the case. As long as the company doesn’t break the laws it is bound by, it cannot be held accountable for its actions however close they reach the fringes of what is ethically right. Usually countries structure laws to attract investors and companies, on occasion leaving loopholes for them to exploit.

One such instance is when India signed the Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with tax havens such as Mauritius and the Cayman Islands way back in 1982, allowing companies residing in India and one of these two nations to pay their taxes in either territories. This is propitious to firms as these havens exempt certain forms of tax, hence sending a beacon to companies the world over to invest in India. When in 2007, Vodafone orchestrated a transaction through the Caymans without paying any tax – as per the laws of the Cayman Islands – the revenue department of India cried foul. Following an acrimonious court case, the Supreme Court dismissed the charges against Vodafone, cementing the capitalist nature of India’s economic policy.

In the end it was Vodafone’s shrewd interpretation of the law that profited them. Unless countries legislate laws which are not subject to subterfuge, companies can and will continue to capitalize on the situation, for as long as they don’t explicitly break the law they are not culpable for their actions.

IIT Guwahati Model United Nations Conference