Saturday 3 March 2012

Update India: Birth Dates, Imperial Stormtroopers and How Homosexuality Corrupts Children

Warning to readers: Lunacy is to be found herein. Abandon all hope, ye who enter.

Even by the standards of our exalted rulers, the last few weeks have been baffling. Entertaining, yes, if you’re into mud-wrestling with knives, but baffling.

There are so many things to talk about that I’ll just focus on a few to go on with.

The first was the Case of the Army Chief’s Age. This has been something dragging on in the background for some months now, and I deemed it so unworthy of notice that I didn’t even try and entertain you lot with mention of it until it suddenly jumped from plain Stupid to Eye-Buggingly Awesome.

So what’s it about? It’s like this: the chief of the army at the moment is one General VK Singh. This officer’s date of birth is, according to some of the army records, 10th May 1951. According to other records available to the government, including records from another branch of the army bureaucracy, his date of birth is 10th May 1950 (I’d like to clarify that having two separate dates of birth isn’t at all unusual for Indians born in the 1970s and earlier, when birth registration wasn’t yet compulsory and birth dates were shifted around in records to take advantage of this or that age deadline). I can’t be bothered to go into the excruciating details of the whole damned thing – you can check here if you’re seriously interested in being bored out of your skull – but the point of the whole rigmarole is that if Singh is deemed to have been born in 1951, he would retire on 30th May of 2013. If he’s deemed to have been born in 1950, he’s got to retire on 30th May of this year.

Obviously, Singh isn’t too keen on losing out on a whole year of pay, perks and prestige, so he’d rather have his date of birth recognised as 10th May of 1951. Also, since promotion in the upper echelons of the army depends (among other spoken and unspoken factors like commands held and political reliability) on seniority, if Singh held on for an additional year, the next officer in line to succeed him would have retired and another lieutenant general would end up succeeding him as army chief. Both of these lieutenant generals, obviously, have a vested interest in the date of Singh’s retirement.  

Besides, do you think he'd want to stop wearing all those medals?

Since the government in this country (in the shape of the Defence Ministry, currently headed by one AK Anthony) holds a position above the military forces, the Defence Minister’s word is supposed to be final in the matter. And that word was that Singh’s date of birth would be taken as 1950 and he would retire on 30th May of this year.

Did that stop the whole thing? Did it hell. Singh (while at the same time loudly proclaiming his loyalty to the system of civilian supremacy) promptly approached the Supreme Court. In other words, the already staggeringly overburdened legal system was tasked with deciding when the hell the chief of the army was born.

At that level it gets crazy, but it doesn’t really get awesome. Not yet.

After a staggeringly convoluted and utterly mind-numbing (to me, at least) media circus, Singh withdrew his petition from the Supreme Court, having made whatever the hell the point was that he apparently wanted to make, when the court said he should either withdraw it or the judges would be “forced to pass an order on the issue” (meaning, Singh was screwed anyway). Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry ordered the Army to amend all its records to show Singh was born in 1950. Surely that was the end of the controversy?

If it was, do you think I’d even be wasting my time with this?

In an interview I read today, Singh said the Supreme Court had “created more confusion” and that he was born in 1951, whatever anyone said, and the “inadvertent error” of his date of birth being entered as 1950 was corrected even before he entered the military academy as a cadet. In other words, the documents that mentioned his birth date as 1950 shouldn’t exist, no matter that they do, and everything that happened to him was someone else’s fault.

That’s...pretty politician-like, actually. I see a post-retirement future for General Singh in right-wing politics, fighting AK Anthony tooth and nail in coming elections.

But that’s not the Eye-Buggingly Awesome bit I promised.

Yesterday, there was a report that the Defence Minister’s office was found bugged, and the most likely source of the bugs was the army chief’s office. Today, after removing army personnel who were manning the Defence Ministry communications, the same Ministry said the office wasn’t ever bugged.

Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice to herself! Maybe we have a shift to an Alternate Universe like I write about in my science fiction stories, one where the bugs vanished? Maybe a Transdimensional Bug Eater came along and licked them up?

OK, let’s assume for the sake of argument that the office was bugged. Who else might have bugged it, you ask? Well, there is one other possible candidate...

...the Americans. I’ve previously stated on many occasions that our beloved leaders like bending themselves backwards into hoops to please the Empire. It must be in our cultural legacy of Yoga that we find such utter spine-bending flexibility when it comes to pleasing foreign overlords. I’d once said, not entirely in jest, that the Americans didn’t need spies in the Indian military – they probably had, I’d said, someone sitting in the Defence Minister’s office reading his files.

Well, what do you know? I might not even have been joking about that.

The head of the US Pacific Command, one Admiral Robert Willard, announced quite definitively that the Empire’s Special Forces have been deployed in India, apart from Pakistan and some other South Asian nations, to fight the Lashkar-e-Toiba (the same group probably responsible for the Bombay attacks of 2008, but remarkably inactive since then). Apparently these Special Forces are meant to “train” Indian troops in counter-insurgency strategies. You know, the same people who have had their asses handed to them by resistance fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan are training our army, who have been fighting insurgencies successfully for sixty years now, in counter-insurgency. How brilliant is this?

Extremely brilliant.

Now, Willard was definite that these forces are meant only for training and nothing else, which would hardly be anything new since our military has been in bed with the Empire and its vassals for over a decade now. But, instead of letting the matter slide without comment, both the government and the American control room embassy in New Delhi denied the existence of these forces at all. The Indian Foreign Ministry even denied that the Empire had asked or been given permission to station these forces, which means that either Willard – the Admiral in charge of the Empire’s entire Pacific Command – is lying through his teeth, or the Foreign Ministry is lying through its teeth, or that they are both speaking the truth and the Special Forces are in India without the knowledge of anyone in this country except possibly at the topmost levels of the Indian government.

You know what? The more I think, the more I’m leaning towards that third possibility. After all, we didn’t even know Imperial stormtroopers were in Yemen until they got attacked, did we now?

And I wonder what kind of “training” they are imparting to our army, all in secret. Any guesses?

Those guns are pointed at you


I’ve spoken elsewhere about the fact that male homosexuality was illegal in India under a Victorian-era British law (lesbianism wasn’t, because pure Indian women couldn’t possibly feel sexual desire, let alone for each other) until 2009, when the Delhi High Court passed an order declaring the law unconstitutional, effectively decriminalising homosexuality. This was followed by Gay Pride parades in Indian cities, which is actually something to be proud of.

Well, apparently not for some people.

Even though the government had said at the time it wouldn’t appeal against the order in the Supreme Court, one of its Additional Solicitor Generals, PP Malhotra, claimed that (English as in the original, missing articles and all)...

Our constitution is different and our moral and social values are also different from other countries, so we cannot follow them...(g)ay sex is highly immoral and against social order and there is high chance of spreading of diseases through such acts.”

This painting is therefore totally not Indian and totally not homosexual

 At the same time, another government institution claimed before the same court that legalising homosexuality would increase child abuse because...

Children will grow up seeing this kind of behaviour in the open. These people will also try to convert children to their way of thinking. This affects [the] institution of marriage, family.”

Since not all Indians are brain-dead morons, these enlightened arguments brought forth a storm of protest from gay rights groups and anyone else with a shred of decency. The government – already under pressure on just about every issue you care to name, from corruption to prices – decided discretion was the better part of valour. So it sent another Additional Solicitor General to try and wriggle out of the situation, claiming that Malhotra had acted on his own, having only been asked to "assist" the Supreme Court, and did not represent India’s Home Ministry – you know, the people who are paying his salary – and that the government wished to withdraw its arguments. The Supreme Court promptly clamped down on this bit of drivel and said that the government couldn’t withdraw statements it had already made. And, while the Home Ministry was still wriggling on the hook, Malhotra said that he had been acting on behalf of the government, not in his personal capacity.

Confusion worse confounded, did someone say?

As yet I have no idea what the court finally decided on this topic, but I don’t see the gay rights genie being forced back into the bottle of repression. It’s kind of late for that.

But this being India, anything at all might happen.

So, watch this space.

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