International Women's Day
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- Li Keqiang pitches for more Chinese investments as he backs trade balance
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International Women's Day
This week we are celebrating International Women's Day. Gone are the times when eminent persons like Thomas Jefferson, an architect of the US Bill of Rights, could deprecate women deserting their rightful domestic place at home and co-mingling with men in political assemblies. Today women rightly occupy posts of power and prestige in the political world, in public administration and in corporate enterprises. Women pilots are an accepted fact of life. Women in armed forces is not a fanciful dream. If men can defend our nation and repulse the enemy at our gates, so can properly trained valiant women. However sparing women from deployment in sectors which would involve rough hand-to-hand combat is not because of any imaginary inferiority but owing to realistic physiological/anatomical considerations. Realism should not be mistaken for anti-feminism.
Wharton's graceless action
It is entirely the choice of any institute about the person who should be invited to deliver a lecture or to be a participant at its seminar. One assumes that before an invitation is extended, necessary enquiries have been made about the standing, background and reputation of the proposed invitee. It is not suggested that an invitation once issued cannot be withdrawn. If subsequent events establish the unfitness of the invitee he may be 'disinvited'. For example: if the invitee has subsequently been convicted or censured by a court of law in respect of a heinous offence. However to withdraw an invitation issued to a political leader of national stature owing to the opposition of some persons about his political record and conduct is graceless and unbecoming of a prestigious institute like the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Moreover, Wharton lost a unique opportunity to put tough, uncomfortable questions to Narendra Modi and indeed vigorously cross-examine him about his role in the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat and his claim of model development of the state of Gujarat. It would have been a worthwhile debate for pupils in the colleges of the oldest and the largest democracies. 'Disinviting' Modi smacks of suppressing Modi's voice and is a form of pre-censorship. If the reason is that the organisers wanted to avoid the heat of controversy and their inability to cope with the trouble Modi's address would have caused, that is pusillanimity, pure and simple. It is totally against the American tradition of freedom of expression and in particular freedom for the thought we hate. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was allowed to rant against Israel and ridicule the existence of the Holocaust during one of his talks in the US. Minister Shashi Tharoor has aptly summed up the matter: "Once they invited him, they had a duty to hear his point of view. That is what makes for a stimulating debate. On a university campus, that is what the entire process should be all about".
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