India and Disarmament at 2.5 Minutes to Midnight

Anarchist Alexander Berkman in his War Dictionary defined Militarism as: “Christianity in action.” It holds more true today in Indian context where Militarism is Hindutva in action. Much more so in the case of Nuclear Weapons (NW) militarism.  Jan Sangh was calling for having NWs before China, let alone Pakistan had them. The NW fetish in India is a direct outgrowth of Hindu Militarism of Sangh and their predecessors – not of any genuine security concern.

Without dwelling into the important history of the development of Indian nuclear weapons programs and policies and the role of US in it, it would be better to concentrate on most recent events. India has one of the fasted growing nuclear arsenal in the world. It is not the signatory of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – along with Pakistan and Israel – all Nuclear Weapons States (NWS). Although NPT is rightly criticized for a lot of its shortcoming, one of which is the absence of implementation of Article VI, which obliges all states party to pursue negotiations “in good faith” on effective measures for nuclear disarmament

Under the shadow of the Bomb

Ex-commander of the US Strategic Air Command, General Lee Butler, concluded that we have so far survived the nuclear age “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.”  For more information on how close we are to a Nuclear War or (more likely) an accidental trigger see the following links:  Graham T. Allison, Nuclear Terrorism expert; Eric Schlosser, investigative journalist;  Ward Wilson of the Rethinking Nuclear Weapons project.

The Recent Doomsday Clock statement noted “Even as the Iran agreement was hammered out, tensions between the United States and Russia rose to levels reminiscent of the worst periods of the Cold War. Conflict in Ukraine and Syria continued, accompanied by dangerous bluster and brinkmanship, with Turkey, a NATO member, shooting down a Russian warplane involved in Syria, the director of a state-run Russian news agency making statements about turning the United States to radioactive ash, and NATO and Russia repositioning military assets and conducting significant exercises with them. Washington and Moscow continue to adhere to most existing nuclear arms control agreements, but the United States, Russia, and other nuclear weapons countries are engaged in programs to modernize their nuclear arsenals, suggesting that they plan to keep and maintain the readiness of their nuclear weapons for decades, at least—despite their pledges, codified in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to pursue nuclear disarmament.

“The fast pace of technological change makes it incumbent on world leaders to pay attention to the control of emerging science that could become a major threat to humanity.” And situation has only worsen under the Trump administration.

In India’s context the change in rhetoric and signals from policy-makers suggest the people in control of NWs are a reckless bunch as stupid a the Trump administration, if not worse. Talks of moving away from No-First-Strike policy by previous Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar are well known and remarks by Shivshankar Menon, National Security Advisor for UPA 2, confirm that India at anytime can change this policy which could have no foreseeable good effects.  MIT professor Vipin Narang, said in a lecture last month that India could launch a “preemptive first strike if it fears a nuclear attack is imminent. –  a marked reversal of the No-First-Use policy” Also noticing that “relations between India and Pakistan are at lowest” since at least a decade.

In New York

On March 27th in New York City, UN negotiations for a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons” will begin.

From The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

“How did we reach this historic turning point? Ireland, together with Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Africa, first put forward the idea of a nuclear-weapon ban treaty at an NPT meeting in 2014. Such a ban, they said, would operate alongside and in support of the NPT and constitute one of a number of effective measures needed to eliminate nuclear weapons. “A prohibition on nuclear weapons is a logical and moral imperative,” the Irish disarmament ambassador, Patricia O’Brien, has said. “It is also a legal imperative, stemming from Article VI of the NPT.”
In the UN General Assembly last December, it became clear that a great majority of NPT members supported the proposed treaty. They voted overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution establishing the mandate for negotiations. The new treaty, when adopted, will place nuclear weapons on the same legal footing as other weapons of mass destruction, which have long been prohibited under international law. Proponents hope that it will greatly strengthen the global norm against nuclear weapons and spur much-needed action toward their abolition.
The negotiations are a necessary response to the deep concern expressed by all NPT members in 2010 at the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” that would result from any use of nuclear weapons. In the final document of that year’s NPT review conference, they affirmed the need “to make special efforts to establish the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.” After decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts, the ban negotiations are a major opportunity for NPT states to contribute toward full implementation of Article VI.
Of course, some NPT members vehemently oppose the initiative, recognizing that it will fundamentally challenge the perception that their reliance on nuclear weapons is legitimate. Last October, the United States “strongly encourage[d]” its NATO allies to vote against the start of negotiations. “In addition, if negotiations do commence, we ask allies and partners to refrain from joining them,” the US government said in a paper explaining how the ban would make it more difficult for NATO members to cooperate in preparations for nuclear war.
It is likely that several US allies will obediently comply with this request. Australia, for example, said on March 2 that it plans to boycott the talks, as it “would not be able to negotiate in good faith.” But others will form an independent view. For example, the Netherlands, which hosts US nuclear weapons on its soil, said on February 27 that it “has chosen to take part constructively, with an open mind and without being naïve.” This is the responsible course of action for any nation wishing to uphold the NPT and prevent its further disintegration.
The greatest threat to the NPT today comes not from the negotiation of a ban treaty—as some nations have disingenuously claimed—but rather from the continued failure of the nuclear weapon states, and many of their allies, to take seriously their disarmament obligations. The NPT is not a licence for certain nations to retain nuclear weapons forevermore, or for others to indefinitely claim the “protection” of an ally’s nuclear weapons.
Recent threats of a new nuclear arms race and ongoing programs to replace old nuclear warheads with ever-deadlier ones cause much damage to the NPT, as does the ill-considered boycott of the forthcoming UN negotiations. At a moment of great global uncertainty and instability, negotiating a ban on the very worst weapons of mass destruction is more crucial and urgent than ever. States should strive to achieve the most robust and effective treaty possible.”

As India is not a NPT member this has no direct bearing on India’s arsenal. But if something fruitful comes out of these negotiations that would change the global atmosphere of concern surrounding NWs significantly. These negotiations aside Indian Anarchists and other concern citizens should come together and eliminate this monster of nuclear weapons. This, a colossal task in itself which will be much more austere under this administration.

In India, Nuclear Disarmament is not only an issue of nation, international security and, above all, of human survival; but is also deeply tied in with the fight against the Right and the ruling class in general. It would be a grave mistake to see it as something separate from other Indian social justice issues. And anyone willing to employ themself in this task should be prepared for “Sedition”. Which Berkman in the Dictionary calls “The proof of Tyranny.”

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Crime – the Privilege of the State

Whether the State is called monarchy or republic, crime will always be necessary to maintain and assure its triumph. This crime will no doubt change its direction and object, but its nature will remain the same. It will always be the forced and abiding violation of justice and of honesty – for the good of the State.  – Mikhail Bakunin

ajitdowal

In 1939, few days before initiating the invasion of Poland, Hitler gave a speech to his to military commanders where asked them “to kill without pity or mercy all men, women and children” and added “only this way can we obtain the living space we want.” He assured them that there will be no retribution and that they will enjoy complete impunity.  This month marks the seventy-seventh year of the invasion.

In 2010, the current National Security Adviser for the Modi administration, Ajit Doval gave a lecture in Hyderabad on Kashmir and described the Kashmir issue as ” the product of the ‘dysfunctional mindset’ of three parties: India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists.” and strongly maintained that there is no “political” issue in Kashmir – a position which is shared by Dovish military and intelligence officials as well.

After presenting his distorted and fantastical analysis of Kashmir’s history and the ritualistic display of jingoism: “we are great fighters, we have a great religion …that teaches us self-sacrifice…”  he advised the then policy makers that: “Don’t overreact, don’t give in, don’t follow appeasement, it [2010 protests] will pass off. It looks big in the midst of it, they cannot sustain it beyond a point and even if they do there is a price that they have to pay.” And “In the game of power the ultimate justice lies with the one who is strong”.

The Doval doctrine has since been applied and the result has been 89 dead civilian, attack on hospitals and ambulances by armed forced, tens of thousands injured, hundreds permanently physically disabled and writers, activists arbitrarily arrested. The goal of this tactic is, as security officers tell us, to retake control over South Kashmir and its streets.

State violence = defense. A tautology.

The organs of state and its lapdogs – the media, tell us that the actions of Indian armed forces are of defensive nature, that they are keeping peace and the unruly protestors are disturbing the peace. The Germans invaded Poland to protect themselves from foreign aggression and to save Germans, just like every other acts of wholesale murder in human history been committed for some noble goal and to protect oneself from aggression of the enemy.

If one accepts this premise that the state has the right to put down revolts and protests, to gain control inside their national boundary by any means then, they are also accepting that Pakistan was justified in committing genocide within its national borders. But I do not believe there are many who will hold such a view. And if the people who attacked Uri Army headquarters and killed 18 individuals for political, strategic or economic advantages are terrorists then, the institution that has deliberately killed 89 people and injured hundreds, within last few months alone, for its ideological, economic and strategic advantages is also a terrorist institution.

There Is No Such Thing As Bad Publicity Except Your Own Obituary

Tanmay Bhat-Sachin Lata Civil War

There is a thin line that separates comedy and insensitivity. Tanmay Bhat might not have been able to keep himself balanced in that line and we wouldn’t blame him for that considering his weight 😛

Yes, I did indulge in body shaming here. But, who cares? He did take part in a roast where almost every joke on him was about his weight. I am sure he doesn’t mind if I make a lighthearted banter about his weight. You felt it wasn’t funny? It doesn’t matter to me. I have freedom of speech. If I can’t make people laugh through proper jokes, I would use profanity, body shaming etc. Humour gives me a facade of moral invisibility to statements “made in jest”. You have no right to object to it. If you are objecting, you are violating my freedom of speech.

It has been a considerable amount of time since I have been in the news. I desperately need some attention. How can I achieve that without any hard work? Well, let me mock some personality who is treated as an icon and has a fan following nothing short of being called as worshipers. I will make those icons use cuss words, I will make them use obscene gestures, that will create a shock quotient among the viewing public. Being irreverent is cool these days and I will be disrespectful to the maximum extent possible. That will give me my 15 minutes of fame. It will be the perfect cannon fodder for the shares, likes and comments in social media and the ideal way to get some cheap laughs.

But, I am a comedian. Aren’t I supposed to genuinely make people laugh? Yeah, but why bother? If I can use second-rate mimicry and third-rate writing coupled with some cuss words and be trending in the news, why should I make the effort to make people laugh through some good old humour? I will just make some Game of Thrones references and show my followers how chic and urbane I am.

The followers of the celebrities I will make a mockery of, will raise a great hue and cry, some political parties will get the cue of free publicity and file FIR’s against me or verbally or physically threaten me and this act of stupidity by political parties will completely overshadow the fact that I humiliated and mocked some of the so-called living legends. The media will have its share of the pie as well where news anchors will shout at the top of their voices about how political parties are ignoring pressing issues like drought and yet ironically have an hour-long debate analyzing the repercussions of my actions.

But, won’t I lose followers? Nah, I don’t think so. The westernized India, who believe that it is cool to say anything about anyone would still follow me because most of them are impressionable and would do anything to look “cool” among their peers. The other India, or the “traditional India”, in any case doesn’t follow me and in any case who gives two hoots about them, they are old and about to die soon anyways.

As for me, I will get my time in the limelight till the next breaking news hits the country and whenever I feel the need for attention again I know what the tried and tested formula is. Also, as they say “There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.”

Citius, Altius, Fortius To Our Athletes & Some Goodwill Towards Salman

salmangoodwill

There has been a lot of hoopla recently regarding Salman Khan’s appointment as goodwill ambassador for India for the Rio Olympics. Brand ambassadors, celebrity endorsers, goodwill ambassadors etc. Whenever I hear these words, I am reminded of the marketing group project days of my MBA. Whenever we had to decide for the brand ambassador for any product or service, the choices that we finalized seemed so clichéd that it was borderline cringe worthy. Bollywood celebrities are typically the first set of people who come to mind whenever we think of ambassadors. Along with Bollywood, Cricket would probably be the other most popular field when it comes to celebrities being ambassadors for a product. Almost every other television ad these days has either Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Virat Kohli or M.S Dhoni in them. Bollywood and cricket in our country are almost treated like two religions and their stars are worshiped as idols.

Bollywood and Cricket had decided in 2007 that joining hands would be a great win-win situation for both the parties. The end-product was something called IPL that has been wooing audiences and will complete 10 years in 2017. Despite all the controversies and decline in viewership over the years, the event has survived and will probably continue to thrive. 3 of the 8 IPL teams in the initial edition in 2007 were owned by Bollywood celebrities. One of them, Kolkata Knight Riders, owned by Shahrukh Khan struggled in its initial years to get any positive results in the field but was still among the most profitable teams around despite its on-field debacles. This further re-iterated the fact that Bollywood and Cricket was going to be an unbeatable combination which will entertain the country for the coming years. Gradually the concept of leagues started going into other sports as well. As of today, we have leagues for the sports of football, hockey, badminton, kabaddi, wrestling etc. Most of them haven’t reached the magnitude of their cricket counterpart but still have made a successful start. The soccer league called as Indian Super League has owners of different teams comprising of many Bollywood celebrities like Ranbir Kapoor, John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan and its popularity is on the upswing. We have even seen Salman Khan in the promos of Pro Kabaddi league and as a neutral viewer it certainly attracts me if I see a familiar face promoting a sport that does not have the recognition as some of its counterparts in terms of audience viewership.

Now coming back to the issue of Salman Khan’s appointment as the ambassador, my first reaction to the appointment was that it would be a perfect platform for Salman Khan to promote his upcoming movie Sultan where he plays the role of a wrestler. I am an active follower of most sports but my first instinct to this appointment was that this would not give any benefit to the sports-persons who will be giving their best to bring laurels to the country. But then, I realized even for someone like me who follows sports actively, I can hardly recollect the names of any Indian wrestler except Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, the latter of whom has openly criticized the appointment of Salman as the goodwill ambassador in Twitter. Dutt has received support from sporting quarters in the form of Milkha Singh who have also advocated that a sportsperson should be a goodwill ambassador instead of a Bollywood celebrity who has no connection with sports. The counter points put up in the form of several tweets by Salman’s father Salim Khan are laughable and stupid to say the least (Both Salman and his father Salim seriously need a good digital public relations team to handle their twitter handle to save us from their obnoxious tweets). In one tweet, Salim Khan has attributed Milkha Singh’s ticket to fame to the fact that a movie was made on him by Bollywood and in another he has glorified the sporting credentials of his son regarding why he is the perfect fit for the role. The reasons given by Salman’s father definitely do not do any justice as to why Salman should be the goodwill ambassador but I feel if the intentions of both IOA and Salman Khan are right, this appointment can be a win-win situation for both.

All of us remember Chak De India and the impact that it had on hockey and just sports in general. Even after so many years we still hear its title song being played in hockey tournaments where India takes part. Also, who can forget the song reverberating at the Wanderers stadium when India won the inaugural T-20 Cricket World Cup. The marriage of Bollywood and Sports works like magic in India in garnering eyeballs and all of us would definitely be in agreement over the fact that we need Olympic sports in India need to get more eyeballs. If it needs a Bollywood celebrity to do that, then so be it. If it means that many deserving ex and current Indian sportsmen miss out on being the goodwill ambassador, then let it be. It is a small price to pay for making sure that there is enough awareness about Olympic sports in the country.

Team India had a decent outing in 2012 Olympics winning 6 medals (2 silvers and 4 bronze). This year the target should be to double that tally or at least reach double digits and win a couple of gold medals as well. Like last time, our medal hopes would again hinge on sports like shooting, wrestling, badminton, boxing, archery, lawn tennis, archery etc. It is not a co-incidence that 3 or 4 of the sports listed above have their own professional leagues in the country now with a lot investment from Bollywood celebrities who act as team owners. We have had 2 super hit movies made in Bollywood on 2 national sports icons, Milkha Singh and Mary Kom.

Hence, as long as the intention of IOA and Salman Khan are correct and both contribute their best and fulfill their responsibility in creating awareness about the event and Olympic sports in general, I don’t see why the appointment of Salman should be a problem. In the midst of all this, if his movie gets promoted, then it shouldn’t be made out as an issue. Who knows, maybe the movie Sultan would have the same effect on wrestling as Chak De India had on hockey. Our next Sushil Kumar or Yogeshwar Dutt might just be inspired to take up wrestling as a career after watching the movie. Yes, Salman Khan does have a tainted past but he has done his fair share of goodwill towards the society as well. Whether that goodwill was done to mitigate the effects of his tainted past is a different story altogether.

Salman Khan might be the figurative goodwill ambassador for India but in reality each athlete representing India should be a goodwill ambassador for us. They will be representing this proud country of ours in a global platform watched by billions. The fact that they have reached there despite the lack of infrastructure and the adversities faced by non-cricketing sports persons in India itself shows their perseverance and dedication to follow their passion and fulfill their dreams. So, let’s not shift the focus away from the hard work put in by our athletes who have qualified for the Olympics by arguing over this mundane topic about which sphere should the goodwill ambassador be from.

Let us all resolve our indifferences and stand by the Olympic motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius. Translated to English, it means “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” But, we should also remember that it stands for the ideal of striving to be better not only in sports but also as human beings.

Hypocrisy And The Indian Media

indian-occupied-kashmir
It doesn’t behove Indian Media and intellectuals to criticize Pakistan Police crushing Pro-Indian protest in POK, when hundreds have been killed in the past decade by Indian Army during similar Pro-Pakistani protests in Indian occupied territories. Most of the times, these incidents are not even mentioned in Indian media, such as ibnlive, India Today and Zee News.

These outlets rarely bat an eye about the mass graves and thousands missing and other thousands of Kashmiris in Indian Prisons without trials, if in deed, ever! And they think they have any moral right to talk about Pakistan’s human rights violations, when at the same time they support the regime that has never let UN investigation team enter India to find the truth about much more severe allegations against it.

This at the moment, which Ahmed Quraishi, Executive Director, YFK described last week during a press conference in Geneva is as: “We could wake up any morning and find our selves engulfed in a full-fledged nuclear war in South Asia – between Pakistan and India”.

Just a few days ago, reportedly thousands of teachers were arrested in my home town, Bhopal, for demanding Equal Pay For Equal Work, a condition protected under UN’s declaration of Universal Human Rights, while instead of condemning this human rights violations most news channels either did not mention it, or mentioned it in passing or argued why the teachers do not “deserve” equal pay. If anyone doesn’t “deserve” any thing today, it is the media outlets, pundits and intellectuals to criticize Pakistan regime for their crimes when it supports the crimes committed by it’s own government with zeal.

It Is Your Choice. But, It’s A Very Poor Choice Of Words.

MyChoice

“My Choice” has been an abused and overused response from “Generation Y” for anything that doesn’t adhere to the conventional standards of behavior which has been set by the earlier generations.  Now when these 2 words are preceded with the words “My Body” then it is bound to ruffle some feathers especially in a conservative society like ours.

Vogue magazine came out with a video under their ‘Vogue Empower’ initiative series named “My Choice” with Deepika Padukone as the protagonist and as many as 98 other women including celebrities from the film industry like Anupama Chopra, Zoya Akhtar, Nimrat Kaur etc. The video aims to bring awareness to the cause of women’s empowerment nationwide. It is ironic to see a fashion magazine and celebrities from an industry who make their money by reinforcing sexist standards of beauty on women preach about women empowerment. The video was probably made with the right intention but the execution of ideas and the statements used turned out to be rhetoric and didn’t drive home the point which I believed the video was supposed to do.

If the execution of the video was poor the reactions and the responses to the video were equally immature. There is no doubt about the fact that some statements in the video like “my choice whether to have sex outside of marriage” do not reflect the true essence of women empowerment at all but just to take a few excerpts out of a video and blowing it out of proportion was not a very mature thing to do. My interpretation of the video’s intended message was that there should not be different guidelines for women and men in the society. A woman should have the choice to wear any kind of clothes she likes; she should have the choice to binge on any food she likes without bothering about her figure; she should have the choice to marry as per her own conditions and whenever she is ready; she should have the choice to love temporarily, or to lust forever. What our society does is denies her that choice.

The angst of the people might be justified if you consider specific statements from the video but as a message in its entirety, it was a pretty strong video. What surprises me is that statements like “having sex outside of marriage” and “to have your baby or not” boils the blood of certain sections of the society but when Vogue Empower had shown a commercial titled “Ladke nahi rote” starring Madhuri Dixit which ends with a shot of a man about to tear up while hitting his wife, there were no reactions from anyone whatsoever. If the bloodied face of the girl being a victim of domestic violence from her husband didn’t instill a chill down your spine but rather an innocuous remark by a movie celebrity did, then I believe we all should take a strong and hard look at ourselves in the mirror. The “My Choice” video was only a logical extension to the “Ladke nahi rote” video where it was further re-iterated that instead of binding women to rules and restrictions, it is necessary for us to educate the men to learn how to respect women and give them equal rights.

It is also the responsibility of women to treat this “equal rights” terminology in the right manner. Yes ladies, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”. Women shouldn’t use equal rights or special privileges granted to them at several places, according to their own convenience.  In fact, I believe that everyone should be treated as equal. If we can’t resist on judging people then we should judge or evaluate everyone on the same framework. Why can’t a man cry? It is perfectly natural to cry. Why can’t a girl dress as she likes to? It is perfectly natural to groom yourself to look the most delightful. Let’s learn to respect the women in our lives; because lack of doing so has caused all of this malice.

Let’s encourage efforts towards woman empowerment even if the message is not conveyed in the subtlest manner possible. To Vogue, I would say, “It is your choice” but as the Joker from the Dark Knight would say “It’s  a very poor choice of words”.

Should We Ban The Intent Or The Content?

Indias-Daughter

India is one of the very few surviving democracies with such a huge and diverse population where Freedom of Speech/Expression is embedded in the culture. Obviously, this has been translated into reality in its constitution that was framed after independence in 1947. This freedom hardly served the artists/filmmakers within India filled with controversies right from the extent of protest against their work to a complete ban (needless to mention the vandalism of property of the artists). The uproar surrounding the documentary India’s Daughter comes as no surprise as India is known for its aversion towards anything that its polity/government is not comfortable with.

India’s Daughter stands apart for its intent rather than content with many questioning the prerogative of an outsider (British) to comment on India’s problem. It is further fuelled by its perceived stereotype of Indian males on the issue of patriarchy. When Mukesh Singh (rape accused of Nirbhaya’s case 2012) in the documentary says Girls are meant to stay at home and not to party or go out at night, without any slightest sign of remorse for the crime committed, even the conservative faction of the society is outraged. What is more worrying is the impression of India that ruins the reputation of NRIs affecting their normal life. For example, the recent case of a German professor refusing admission to an Indian student on the grounds of rape problems in India is atrocious.

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Of course, this was followed by a fitting reply by a German ambassador upholding the values of his country at the same time demolishing the prejudice of a professor.

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Staunch liberals of India who generally take a firm stand against the ban also went on to criticize the documentary for its providing undeserving attention to the rape accused and his lawyers—whose comments were even worse. Perhaps, it is due to the fact that BBC is known for publishing condescending news articles projecting an image about India that are far from reality. The following are some of the useless story headlines about India that have made it to BBC news for no reason but sensation:

“Snake charmer sparks office panic”

“Indian snake charmers ‘held photographer captive’”

“The cash machine with a free cobra”

“The bull whose semen is worth $3,000 a shot”

“Cow dung burning ban near Taj Mahal”

“India cow row settled by DNA tests’”

After reading these, I was wondering that the intention behind such headlines maybe is the key to unlock the world’s peace and prosperity. 🙂

There is no denial by Indians about the content of the documentary and its veracity, but the questions asked are, “Why is a rape accused the main focus of the documentary? Why does BBC malign India and its prospects through such works? Despite having one of the lowest rape per capita in the world (taking into account the unreported cases), why is India projected as the rape capital of the world?”

The Indian Government was also unintentionally baited into this issue creating a sensation through the ban. Indians would have probably just overlooked the documentary as yet another one from BBC if not for the undue publicity by its own government. Proponents of free speech including me are baffled about this on how to handle such works that are true but give rise to unpleasant consequences leading to the question, “Should we ban the intent or the content?” —maybe neither. Whatever it may be, it is disheartening to hear the stories of direct victims of the documentary.