Regular readers of Straight.com are well aware of the creeping fascism in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This is largely thanks to contributor Gurpreet Singh, who’s chronicled ongoing outrages in the country of his birth, including a clampdown on civil liberties in Kashmir and the assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh.
He’s frequently covered majoritarian violence directed against Muslims and Christians—decried as “beef eaters” by Hindu fanatics—as well as the appalling treatment of Dalits, otherwise known as “untouchables”.
But until this weekend, all of these outrages in the world’s so-called largest democracy have been underreported or simply ignored by the Canadian media.
Canadian politicians, with extremely rare exceptions, have also kept their mouths shut about what’s taking place in India.
That cloak of silence was lifted, however, when supporters of secularism in India held rallies this weekend across Canada to protest the Modi government’s Citizenship Amendment Act.
For the first time since Modi visited Canada in 2015, protests against his government in Canadian cities were covered on national newscasts.
The growing outrage in Canada has finally penetrated the national consciousness. The heartbreak felt many South Asian immigrants to Canada over what’s occurring in the subcontinent is finally being acknowledged.
That marks a breakthrough.
However, Canadian politicians avoided these noisy demonstrations and the vast, vast majority of elected officials in this country remain insensitive to the community’s fears about what Modi might do in the future. And these same Canadian politicians have proven to be utterly useless to the brave Indians who challenge the prevailing Hindutva ideology of Hindu supremacy being advanced by Modi and his cohorts in the BJP.
Already, 23 people have died in India in uprisings against the citizenship legislation. It allows people fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan to obtain Indian citizenship, as long as they’re not Muslims.
Annie Ohana honoured at protest
Indians Abroad for Pluralist India’s demonstration in Surrey’s Holland Park began with a moment of silence. It was for those who’ve lost their lives in the recent Indian demonstrations.
Speakers included Muslim community leaders Itrath Syed, Furqan Gehlen, and Dawood Ismail; Hindu interfaith chaplain Arun Chatterjee; Sikh activists Gian Singh Gill and Kulwinder Singh; Niovi Patsicakis of the Global Peace Alliance; leftists Prabhjot Kaur Hundal, Rawait Singh, and Joseph Theriault; and educator and former NDP candidate Annie Ohana.
Ohana, who ran in Fleetwood–Port Kells in the last federal election, was presented with a medal of courage by Indians Abroad for Pluralist India for her willingness to speak up about what’s happening in India and her long record of antiracism.
She and another NDP candidate in the last federal election, Svend Robinson, are among the very few who’ve raised Canadians’ awareness about what’s occurring in India. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has also spoken out on the odd occasion.
In contrast, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, and members of B.C. premier John Horgan’s cabinet have not leveraged their high political positions to advance the cause of human rights in India since Modi became prime minister.
This is despite growing outrage among the South Asian diaspora, which is now seeping into the Canadian mainstream.
Another genocide around the corner?
In the words of Amnesty International, the Indian state is “criminalizing protest”.
Ominously, the Modi government plans to extend a National Register of Citizens from the northeastern state of Assam to all of India by 2021. If that happens, everyone will carry national identity cards.
The cabinet minister who will oversee this is none other than Amit Shah, the same minister who shut down the Internet in Kashmir, which is the only Muslim-majority region in the country. Politicians have been jailed and an entire region was turned into an open-air prison.
This has prompted fears that the BJP, which argues that India is a Hindu nation, may embark on a genocide against Muslims along the lines of what occurred in Gujarat in 2002 when Modi was the state’s chief minister.
It’s worth reviewing the words of Arundhati Roy in an essay about the anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat.
“The genocide began as collective punishment for an unsolved crime—the burning of a railway coash in which fifty-three Hindu pilgrims burned to death,” she writes in My Seditious Heart. “In a carefully planned orgy of supposed retaliation, two thousand Muslims were slaughtered in broad daylight by squads of armed killers, organized by fascist militias, and backed by the Gujarat government and the administration of the day.
“Muslim women were gang-raped and burned alive,” Roy continues. “Muslim shops, Muslim businesses, and Muslim shrines and mosques were systematically destroyed. Two thousand were killed and more than one hundred thousand people were driven from their homes.”
Later in that same essay, she points out that the Congress politician who campaigned against Modi was “publicly butchered”. After Ehsan Jafri was cut to pieces, his body was set on fire so he could be burned alive.
“While the mob that lynched Jafri, murdered several people, and gang-raped twelve women—before burning them alive—was gathering, the Ahmedabad commissioner of police, P.C. Pandey, was kind enough to visit the neighbourhood,” Roy writes. “After Modi was reelected, Pandey was promoted and made Gujarat’s director general of police. The entire killing apparatus remains in place.”
Yes, the killing apparatus remains in place.
And the Canadian government, which professes such a keen interest in human rights, can’t be bothered to utter a peep of concern.
Are You Missing Life’s Moments Because of Social Media?
Recently my wife and I watched the movie Before Sunrise , starring Ethan Hawke as Jesse and Julie Delpy as Celine. While travelling on a Eurail train from Budapest, Jesse, an American, sees Celine, who’s French. It’s Jesse’s last day in Europe before returning to the US. Jesse strikes up a conversation with Celine, and they disembark in Vienna to spend the night wandering Austria’s capital city.
Summary: Before Sunrise is a back-and-forth conversation between a romantic [Celine] and a cynic [Jesse].
During the closing credits, I turned to my wife and said, “That wouldn’t have happened today. Jessie and Celine would have been staring at their respective smartphone throughout the train ride, which in 2021 would have free Wi-Fi, not noticing the passing scenery, their fellow passengers or each other, let alone start a conservation.”
How much of real life are we trading to participate in the digital world?
I have this problem; actually, it’s more of an addiction I need to keep in check constantly. I suffer from FOMO [Fear of Missing Out].
You’ve probably heard of FOMO. Odds are you suffer from it to a degree. FOMO is that uneasy feeling you get when you feel other people might be having a good time without you, or worst, living a better life than you. FOMO is why social media participation is as high as it is. FOMO is why you perpetually refresh your social media feeds, so you don’t feel left out—so that you can compare your life. FOMO is what makes social media the dopamine machine it is.
FOMO has become an issue, especially for those under 40. More and more people choose to scroll mindlessly through their social media feeds regardless of whether they’re commuting on public transit, having dinner in a restaurant, or at a sports event. Saying “yes” to the digital world and “no” to real life is now common.
Your soulmate could be sitting a few seats over on the bus (or Eurail train), or at the diner counter, or in the doctor’s waiting room. However, you’re checking your social media to see if Bob’s vacationing in Aruba with Scarlett or if Farid got the new job and may now be making more money than you. Likely, your potential soulmate is probably doing the same.
Look around. Everyone is looking down at the screen in their hand, not up at each other.
We all know Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, et al. [even LinkedIn] doesn’t provide a very well-rounded picture of people’s lives. Most of what people post is cherry-picked to elicit self-affirming responses, such as likes, thumbs-up and hand-clapping emojis, retweets, shares, and those coveted comments of “Congratulations!”, “Way to go!”, “You’re awesome!”, “Looking good!”
The Internet, especially its social media aspect, equates to “Look at me!”
Sometimes I wonder, if bragging and showing off were banned on social media sites, how much would posts decrease?
“Stop paying so much attention to how others around you are doing” was easy advice to follow pre-Internet (the late 90s). Back in the day, it would be only through the grapevine you were a part of that you found out if Bob was in Aruba with Scarlett and that be without pictures. Evidence of how others are doing, strangers included, is pervasive because undeniably, most of us care about status. In 2021 how people are doing is in the palm of our hands, so we tend to give more time to the device we’re holding at the cost of neglecting the real-life happenings within our immediate surroundings.
Social media has made us a restless, anxious bunch underappreciating the present moment. With lockdown restrictions lifting and more social activities taking place, people will be hunkering down on their smartphones more than before to see what others are doing. They’ll see the BBQ they weren’t invited to or people they consider to be friends having a few laughs on the local pub’s patio or camping or at the beach without them. Loneliness, questioning self-worth, depression will be the result.
Trading engaging with those around you to feed your FOMO angst is what we’ve come down to. In my opinion, Guildwood is the GTA’s most walkable neighbourhood. You can choose to take walks around Guildwood, getting exercise, meeting people or stay addicted to the FOMO distress social media is causing you.
Instead of catching up with an old friend or colleague in person over lunch, coffee, or a walk in Guild Park & Gardens, people prefer to text or message each other on social media platforms eliminating face-to-face interactions. Instead of trying to reconnect with old friends verbally, people would rather sit at home with their technology devices and learn what their friends are up to through social media platforms, thus the start of a slippery slope towards anti-social behaviour.
Social media’s irony is it has made us much less social. How Jesse and Celine meet [you’ll have to see the movie] and the resulting in-depth conversation they have as they gradually open up to each other, thus beginning a postmodern romance wouldn’t have happened today. They’d be too preoccupied with their smartphones feeding their FOMO addiction to notice each other.
Social media will always nudge you to give it attention, but that doesn’t mean you have to oblige. Take it from me; there’s more to be had in enjoying life’s moments outside of social media.
Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Director of Social Media (Executive Board Member). You can reach Nick at email@example.com and him on Instagram and Twitter @NKossovan.
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck pictured kissing as ‘Bennifer’ returns
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck have been pictured exchanging passionate kisses, apparently confirming weeks of fevered rumors that they have rekindled a romance that dominated celebrity media almost 20 years ago.
Paparazzi photos printed in the New York Post on Monday showed the two actors kissing while enjoying a meal with members of Lopez’s family at Malibu’s posh Nobu sushi restaurant west of Los Angeles on Sunday.
Representatives for Lopez, 51, declined to comment on Monday, while Affleck’s publicists did not return a request for comment.
Lopez and “Argo” director Affleck, dubbed “Bennifer,” became the most talked about couple in the celebrity world in the early 2000s in a romance marked by his-and-her luxury cars and a large 6.1-carat pink diamond engagement ring. They abruptly called off their wedding in 2003 and split up a few months later.
The pair have been pictured together several times in Los Angels and Miami in recent weeks, after Lopez and her former baseball player fiance Alex Rodriguez called off their engagement in mid-April after four years together. Monday’s photos were the first in which Lopez and Affleck were seen kissing this time around.
Celebrity outlet E! News quoted an unidentified source last week as saying Lopez was planning to move from Miami to Los Angeles to spend more time with Affleck, 48, and was looking for schools for her 13-year-old twins Max and Emme.
Max and Emme, along with the singer’s sister Lydia, were also photographed walking into the restaurant in Malibu on Sunday.
Lopez married Latin singer Marc Anthony, her third husband, just five months after her 2004 split with Affleck. Affleck went on to marry, and later was divorced from, actress Jennifer Garner.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
TikTok debuts new voice after Canadian actor sues
After noticing a new female voice narrating the videos on , users of TikTok were baffled as to why. It actually turns out that the Canadian actress behind the old voice filed a lawsuit against the platform for copyright violation as her voice was apparently being used without her permission.
Bev Standing, , is taking China-based ByteDance to court. TikTok’s parent company has since replaced her voice with a new one, with Standing reportedly finding out over email after a tip-off from a journalist. On the matter, Standing said: “They replaced me with another voice. I am so overwhelmed by this whole thing. I’m stumbling for words because I just don’t know what to say.”
TikTok is said to be considering a settlement for Standing outside of the courts, but nobody knows whether or not this is true. According to legal experts, the fact TikTok now has a new voice on the popular social media app suggests they acknowledge Standing’s case and potentially understand that she may have suffered as a result of the company’s actions.
Thanks to the emergence of the powerful smartphone devices of today, alongside taking high-quality images for Instagram, getting lost down YouTube wormholes, and , people are turning to relatively new platforms like TikTok. The service has 689 million monthly active users worldwide and is one of the most downloaded apps in Apple’s iOS App Store. This latest news could harm the platforms future, although many of its younger users potentially aren’t aware that this type of scenario is unfolding.
For Bev Standing, the ordeal is a testing one. She wasn’t informed of the voice change, there is no mention of it in TikTok’s newsroom online, and the development is news to her lawyer also.
This all comes after her case was filed in a New York State court in early May after the voice actor noticed a computer-generated version of her voice had been seen and listened to around the world since 2020. Speculation is rife as to how TikTok managed to obtain the recordings but Standing believes the company acquired them from a project she took part in for the Chinese government in 2018.
The Institute of Acoustics in China reportedly promised her that all of the material she would be recording would be used solely for translation, but they eventually fell into the hands of TikTok and have since been altered and then exposed to a global audience.
According to Pina D’Agostino, an associate professor with Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and an expert in copyright law, the fact that the hugely popular social media platform has now changed Standing’s voice could result in a positive outcome for the distraught voice actor. She said: “It’s a positive step in the way that they are mitigating their damages. And when you’re mitigating, you’re acknowledging that we did something wrong, and you’re trying to make things better.”
When assessing social media etiquette and how both companies and users should act, this type of news can only do more harm than good. Not only does it make the company look bad, but it could have an effect on revenues and, ultimately, TikTok’s reputation.
With a clear desire to move on and put this whole process behind her, Bev Standing is eager for the case to be resolved and get back to the daily work she loves and has been doing for a large part of her life. TikTok has until July 7 to respond to her claim.