Category: World

Dissent, safety valve of Democracy

“Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If dissent is not allowed, then the pressure cooker may burst,” – Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, part of a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.

The above quote is from a judgement which was passed by the Supreme Court on the detainment of the five activists who were arrested on the charge of ‘sedition.’ Their arrest had sparked off a debate. Is dissent in India under threat?

What is dissent? The dictionary defines it as, ‘the holding or expression of opinions at variance with those commonly or officially held. 

There are multiple articles on this website which talk about how the people should value the rights they enjoy. But in this article, the primary focus will be laid on how these rights (especially freedom of expression) is indispensable for a nation.

Democracy, is one of the most widely accepted political systems across the world. 123 countries (out of 192) follow this system. It is the only system (till now) where the focus is on the individual. Fundamental rights are granted to the people to ensure their well being. Furthermore, these rights keep the powers of the government in check. Among these rights is the ‘freedom of expression.’ The term is quite self explanatory, it gives anyone the right to express their opinions on the public platform. This also includes ‘dissenting’ opinion.

Dissent has played a vital role in the history of India. ‘Sati Pratha‘ was a prevalent social practice in India during the 19th century.  ‘Sati‘ required the woman to immolate herself on the husband’s pyre. Women were forced to follow this practice. Raja Rammohan Roy dissented from society. He worked hard against conservatism, fought off the forces of the backward mindset society and succeeded into making the British Government listen to him. In 1829, under the Governorship of Lord William Bentinck, ‘Sati Pratha‘ was abolished.

In 1885, the Congress party was formed. It is often argued that this party was ‘allowed‘ to be created by the British. The reason being that it would act as a ‘safety valve‘ for the population they ruled. It gave them an insight into the thinking of Indians and develop a deep understanding of them. What the British did not realize was that this was the first of many mistakes they made. No one could have thought that an organization which was created as an experiment, would overthrow the mighty British Empire without even firing a single shot. Their key weapons were ‘ahimsa‘ (non violence) and ‘satya’ (truth). To this I would like to add, dissent.

If the leaders of the Congress hadn’t dissented from the methods of governance of the ruling dispensation. Then independence may never have come to us.

Another example of how dissent is vital for countries to maintain peace and stability. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). It was a Communist regime where freedom of expression was prohibited.  For a long time the people were denied the right to express their opinion. This pressure kept building and one day it burst. USSR ceased to exist in 1991.

The above example clearly illustrates how the lack of freedom of expression leads to strife and instability. However, does freedom of expression lead to peace? Let us look at the Roman Empire to answer this question.

An empire of three continents, the Roman Empire consisted of a very diverse population. To integrate the people of various ethnicity and cultures, the Roman senate began accepting popular leaders of these provinces as senators (representatives) of that province. This policy allowed the indigenous population to voice out their views in the central authority of the empire. When they realized that their voices were being heard, they would feel a sense of belonging with the foreign empire. If there would be boiling tensions then the ability to dissent and express would act as a safety valve. Things would not explode and peace could be restored easily.

A country is a complex machine. All such machines have a safety valve as a precaution to ensure that if there is a buildup of pressure, the safety valve can be opened up and the pressure can be released. In a country like India where there are people from various ethnicity, cultures, regions, religions; dissent plays an important role in maintaining the unity among the people. When we express ourselves or confide in someone, we feel good. Our mind clears and starts thinking logically and constructively again. This same concept can be applied to a country. When people can speak up, they release their anger and the pressure goes down.

What happens when this same anger is allowed to build up in the minds of the people? It becomes a ticking time bomb. Sooner or later it will explode. When it does, it will be very disastrous for the nation. Sometimes it may even lead to disintegration (as was the case with USSR.)

Does it mean that I am advocating dissent regardless of its repercussions? No. Absolutely not. The core value of dissent is to ensure peace and stability. Expression is a powerful tool and it has to be used wisely. Whoever uses this tool to instigate violence. Under the pretext of patriotism, is not patriotic. Peace and co-existence is enjoyed by very few in this world. I will quote our own Mahatma Gandhi on this, “I object violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

It is necessary that we protect dissent. Especially in a country like ours where diversity is an inherent characteristic. We are a nation built of nations, but we are a people of one nation. Dissent is essential for democracies to survive and thrive. Our ability to voice our opinions makes a lot of difference. It prevents violent and destructive thoughts from manifesting in our minds. Dissent acts as a safety valve, to release the pressure. We must always cherish and protect it.

Priyamvad Rai

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The Euphoria called Football

The FIFA world cup kicked off on Thursday by Saudi Arabia and Russia in the latter’s capital of Moscow. For an entire month, the world will be gripped in the ecstasy of football. Thousands of fans will be attending the event in 11 cities across Russia with millions more joining in from all across the world through the power of television and the internet. A sport, loved so much, that people spend sleepless nights to watch their favourite teams play in this tremendous tournament.

1930 was the year when this quadrennial event began. The venue for this watershed moment in sporting history was Uruguay. A mere 13 countries participated; because crossing the Atlantic Ocean was a perilous task back then. It took almost 3 weeks to travel from Europe to South America. Even though it was a small tournament, the effect it had was a large one. In succeeding world cups, the number of teams participating to qualify for the tournament kept on increasing and the desire to lift the trophy even more so.

We have come a long way from the 1930s. The 2018 world cup has 32 countries competing for the title of world champions; and over 200 countries who participated in the qualifiers for the world cup. The excitement is not just for winning the cup, but also for hosting it! The hosts for the next two world cups have already been declared with Qatar hosting it in 2022 and United States, Mexico and Canada, jointly hosting the one after that in 2026 (Which is going to be the largest one ever, with more than 40 countries). Such is the craze for the FIFA world cup.

Even a country like India where cricket is considered to be the ‘unofficial’ national sport football too has a great following. Millions across India tune in to watch the various European clubs compete for the title in their respective leagues. India has one of the largest viewers of football in the world. With India hosting the U-17 World Cup, being victorious in the recently hosted continental cup and advent of Indian Super League, football too is rising up to the position which cricket presently holds. It will not be long before football becomes a ‘religion’ like cricket is in India. But what is it that makes this game just so wonderful to look at and play?

Football is the kind of game which keeps you at the edge of your seat. For those 90 minutes nothing else matters, just the football and shooting it into the back of the net. In the blink of an eye the tide can change. From being down 1-0 to leading the game by 2-1, the exhilarating moments and breath-taking movements on the pitch keeping even the non-followers glued to the screen. When you play the game, you feel what the players who are playing for their countries feel. The unparalleled adrenaline rush of getting past the defenders and kicking the ball into the back of the net. It is a feeling which all of us experience, whether it is playing or watching the game. Personally, I never used to watch football; but since the exciting final of the 2014 World Cup, I’ve become a follower of the sport. Making sure that I watch the important fixtures across all leagues if not following it religiously. Any chance I get to play, I make sure that I do. At the end of the match, regardless of whether you won or lost; watching or playing; those 90 minutes are just simply euphoric. If you meet someone who doesn’t speak your language, football will be your connection. That’s the reason why football is so popular across the globe. It brings the people closer, the countries closer and inadvertently, the world closer to each other.

Priyamvad Rai

Age of Empires II – A timeless classic

Age of Empires II (AOEII) was released in the year 1999 and it revolutionized real time strategy gaming for the years to come. It gathered some of the greatest civilizations which existed in the history of the world and put them in your computer. It is you who explore and reigns the Empire. Which may fade away like the rest, or stand the test of time.

In AOEII, there’s a collection of different civilizations. Each with its own unique capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. In an AOEII match, which usually lasts 30-40 minutes. You are required to achieve victory by completing specific objectives as demanded by different maps. You select a civilization, and start off with a single building, a few villagers and a single cavalry unit which you can use for scouting the surrounding regions for resources. What you look for is wood, food, gold and stone. You use them for various purposes like researching new technologies and constructing buildings. From this small village, you have to build your economy, build an army and take on your enemies. The final objective, to emerge victorious.

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Strategy is imperative for victory. You either focus on your economy, or prefer amassing a large army and crush the enemy early in the game. Or focus on constructing defences. Or maybe a more balanced approach. The possibilities are endless. It is essential that you understand the civilization’s technology tree. Be aware of your weaknesses and bank upon your strengths. Keep a close eye on the enemy though, you never know what trick they have up their sleeves, or in this case; scale mail armor.

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The game has both single player and multiplayer modes. First I’ll talk about the former.

Single player consists of two sub-modes. In one of the modes you play on a random map with an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) or multiple A.I. It is the second mode which I find to be most interesting, campaigns. AOEII allows you to play the campaigns of some of the greatest military generals or Emperors from various eras of world history. Campaigns include William Wallace, Genghis Khan, Frederick Barbarossa, El Cid, Montezuma, Joan of Arc, Saladin, Attila the Hun, Prithviraj Chauhan and many more. Voice acting is top notch, the accents have been well done. In these campaigns, you step into the shoes of the great personality and replay their great achievements. It is also an interesting way to learn history of various countries and continents. I have learnt so much about these civilizations, just by playing through these campaigns.

Multiplayer is where the real competition lies. You can go head to head with some of the best players in the world. It is organized in the same way like the first sub-mode of single player. Players can either fight each other or combat the dauntless A.I. together. However, it feels as if the A.I. might be overpowered. The victories of my friends and me against the A.I. can be counted on fingers. They are that difficult. But when you defeat them, the feeling is just sublime.

There are a few criticisms. When constructing a gate, there should be a button to rotate the gate, currently it is non-existent. As I mentioned before, the A.I. feels overpowered and probably some tuning is needed in its coding. Also, why can’t my villagers walk through houses? Or any buildings at all? There are doors. It should be made possible for them to walk through those doors. Maps are sometimes bugged, and resources are surrounded by forests through which the villagers cannot walk. Making it extremely unfair on the affected player. These should be sorted out as soon as possible. There are other tiny things which don’t affect playability but are a good laugh sometimes like, if one single villager survives the destruction of your empire, he can rebuild it again (And he humbly decides to remain a villager).

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It has an active community. I believe it is due to the unique and unpredictable maps and players respectively. No two matches ever turn out to be the same way and that keeps bringing people back. The modding community has some great submissions. Maps like, Game of Thrones themed maps, Trump’s wall (Yes that’s a thing) are fun to play! My personal favourite mod is the merging of soundtracks from Stronghold with the AOEII soundtracks (Which are also good! But this makes it better).

I have been playing this game since 4th grade. I’ve come a long way from then, won a few battles and lost some. The time spent on this game has been memorable, and I find myself reminiscing about it now and then. This game is available on Steam and is on sale till 19th February. Even at full price, it is worth more than what you spend. You play the game and experience why it is a timeless classic. Till then, I will be laying siege to Constantinople and see you in my next article.

Priyamvad Rai

Here’s a video of a match I played with my friend!