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Listening for Well-being : Arun Maira Talks About a Democracy in Crisis, Unsafe Social Media and More in his Latest Book

Maira asserts that we must learn to listen more deeply to 'people who are not like us' in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race.

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Arun Maira
Arun Maira (extreme left), during a public event in 2009. Wikimedia
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  • Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira’s latest book is titled ‘Listening for Well-Being’
  • Maira observes that physical and verbal violence in the world and on social media is continuously growing
  • He also highlights the importance of ‘hearing each other’ in order to create truly inclusive and democratic societies

New Delhi, September 5, 2017 : Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira contends that “physical violence” in the real world and “verbal violence” on social media against people whom “we do not approve of” are increasing today. With such trends on the rise, the very idea of democracy finds itself in a crisis.

The solution?

“We need to listen more deeply to people who are not like us,” said the much-respected management consultant, talking of his latest book, “Listening for Well-Being”, and sharing his perspective on a wide range of issues that he deals with.

“Violence by people against those they dislike, for whatever reason, is increasing. It has become dangerous to post a personal view on any matter on social media. Responses are abusive. There is no respect for another’s dignity. People are also repeatedly threatened with physical violence.”

He said that gangs of trolls go after their victims viciously. “Social media has become a very violent space. Like the streets of a run-down city at night… not a safe space to roam around in.”

At the same time, streets in the physical world are becoming less safe too. “Any car or truck on the road can suddenly become a weapon of mass destruction in a ‘civilised’ country: in London, Berlin, Nice, or Barcelona,” Maira told IANS in an interview.

Maira said that with the rise of right-wing parties that are racist and anti-immigrant, there is great concern in the Western democratic world — in the US, the UK and Europe — that democracy is in a crisis.

In the US, for example, supporters of Donald Trump, Maira said, believe only what Trump says and watch only the news channels that share a similar ideology. On the other side are large numbers of US citizens who don’t believe what Trump says but they too have their own preferred news sources.

“They should listen to each other, and understand each other’s concerns. Only then can the country be inclusive. And also truly democratic — which means that everyone has an equal stake and an equal voice,” he noted.

In “Listening for Well-Being” (Rupa/Rs 500/182 Pages), Arun Maira shows his readers ways to use the power of listening. He analyses the causes for the decline in listening and proposes solutions to increase its depth in private and public discourse.

Drawing from his extensive experience as a leading strategist, he emphasises that by listening deeply, especially to people who are not like us, we can create a more inclusive, just, harmonious and sustainable world for everyone.

But it would be wrong to say that the decline in listening is only restricted to the Western world.

“We have the same issues in India too. We are a country with many diverse people. We are proud of our diversity. However, for our country to be truly democratic, all people must feel they are equal citizens.

“The need for citizens to listen to each other is much greater in India than in any other country because we are the most diverse country, and we want to be democratic. So, we must learn to listen more deeply to ‘people who are not like us’ in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race,” he maintained.

Maira also said that India is a country with a very long and rich history. And within the present boundaries of India are diverse people, with different cultures, different religions, and of different races.

“So, we cannot put too sharp a definition on who is an ‘Indian’ — the language they must speak, the religion they must follow, or the customs they must adopt. Because, then we will exclude many who do not have the same profiles, and say they are not Indians. Thus we can falsely, and dangerously, divide the country into ‘real Indians’ and those who are supposedly non-Indians. Indeed, such forces are rising in India,” he added.

Maira, 74, hoped that all his readers will appreciate that listening is essential to improve the world for everyone. He also maintained that it is not a complete solution to any of the world’s complex problems but by listening to other points of view, we can prevent conflict and also devise better solutions.

Born in Lahore, Arun Maira received his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Physics from Delhi University’s St Stephen’s College. He has also authored two bestselling books previously, “Aeroplane While Flying: Reforming Institutions” and “Upstart in Government: Journeys of Change and Learning”. (IANS)

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All You Need to Know About the Sport of Jallikattu

Jallikattu is certainly a dangerous sports, which poses a risk of life for the participants.

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banned bull taming sport of Tamil Nadu
Jallikattu sport of Tamil Nadu, Wikimedia

By Ruchika Verma

  • Jallikattu is a traditional Tamil sport
  • The sport involves bulls and humans, the latter trying to control the former
  • The sport was banned in 2014, which created a lots of controversy

Jallikattu or Sallikkattu, also known as ‘eru thazhuvuthal’ and ‘manju virattu’ traditionally, was in news last year, around this time due to the ban imposed on it by the Supreme Court. The ban was much hyped and gathered a plethora of media’s attention.

Jallikattu ban was much hyped. Wikimedia Commons
Jallikattu ban was much hyped. Wikimedia Commons

Jallikattu ban has also garnered lots of political attention due to the involvement of Tamil Nadu and Central governments. The issue is much hyed due to the political context involved in it too.

What exactly is Jallikattu ? 

Jallikattu is a traditional sport and spectacle in which bulls of the Pulikulam or Kangayam breeds are released into a crowd of people, and multiple human participants attempt to control the bulls while they try to escape.

Jallikattu is seen as animal cruelty by many activists. Flickr
Jallikattu is seen as animal cruelty by many activists. Flickr

Jallikattu is practised in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations. The districts, Madurai, Thanjavur, and Salem are the most famous for conducting Jallikattu. The game dates back to Tamil classical period, which went back to 400 BC. Ancient Tamil Sangam literature described the practice as ‘Yeru thazhuvuthal’ which literally means “bull embracing.” With time the sport has become synonymous with valour and bravery.

Also Read : Tamil Nadu legalises Jallikattu with a New Law

What happens in Jallikattu and how?

The bulls participating in the game are all lined up behind a narrow gate and released one by one into the arena. The participants have to either control the bull by holding its hump or clutch away a flag attached to the horns. Owners of the bulls often announce prizes for the man who gets the hold of their bull.

The objective of the game is not to kill or overpower the bull, but to hold onto their hump for a certain amount of time or distance.

The participants are only allowed to hold onto the hump of the Bull. www.in.com
The participants are only allowed to hold onto the hump of the Bull. www.in.com

There are three variants to the game. First, when the  bulls are released from an enclosed area. Second, when the bull is directly released into open ground. And third, when bull is tied to a rope as the only restriction, and a team of 7-9 members has to untie the prize from the bull’s horns in 30 minutes of time period.

The gate through which bulls enter the arena are called vadi vasai. The bulls charge at the men standing most near to the gate. One of the rules also say that a participant is only allowed to hold bull’s hump and no other body part. The other rules varies from region to region.

Also Read : Animal rights organisations challenge new law on Jallikattu

Jallikattu Ban and Controversy

Jallikattu is certainly a dangerous sports, which poses a risk of life for the participants.

In 2014, The Supreme Court banned the sport, endorsing the activists’ concerns according to which, Jallikattu is not only cruelty towards the animal, but also poses a threat to humans. According to the data provided, between 2010 and 2014, 17 people were killed and approximately 1000 were injured during Jallikatu.

The Jallikattu ban was protests by many Tamilians.
The Jallikattu ban was protests by many Tamilians.

However, the ban invited a lots of protests. Many Tamil communities called this ban a violation of their culture and tradition.

In 2017, many lawyers plead to remove the ban which was rejected by the court. After requests and arguments of Tamil communities, central government reversed the ban, however, after Supreme Court stuck the order down, the ban was imposed again. However, the government of Tamil Nadu sanctioned the sport and brought it back into the practice.