Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn:

#Not for the likes of Kailash Vijayvargiya who displayed appalling misogyny and a corresponding lack of knowledge of the epic he was citing when he talked of women having to live within a notional Lakshman Rekha.

#Or an Abhijit Mukherjee who seems to have a thing for ‘dented and painted’ — and beautiful — women.

#Or a Raj Thackeray who believes that if a fence could be built around Bihar and that state could be isolated from the rest of the country, rapes wouldn’t happen.

#Or a Mohan Bhagwat who in the face of all quantified evidence holds that rape is a phenomenon peculiar to the ‘westernized’ cities of ‘India’, and absent from the villages and forests (forests?!) of ‘Bharat’.

#Or for Chhattisgarh minister Nanki Ram Kanwar who suggested that the fault lay with the alignment of the stars and the planets.

#Or for the countless others of both sexes and all party affiliations who, over the past few days, have vitiated the atmosphere with comments that are risible when they are not downright reprehensible.

I don’t give a damn for the Jamaat-i-Islami Hind, which suggests that in order to stop rapes and make women safe, all sex outside the marital bed should be made punishable offenses and co-education should be banned;

#Nor for Rajasthan MLA Bhanwari Lal Singhal who believes that schoolgirls wearing skirts is the problem;

#Nor for the Pudhucherry government that wants to put our schoolgirls in overcoats and ferry them around in segregated buses;

#Nor for ‘spiritual leader’ Asaram Babu who said The Delhi Rape Victim (I capitalized that to distinguish her from the 635 or so other women who were raped in Delhi these last 12 months) could have avoided her fate if only she had called her assailants ‘brothers’;

#Nor for the dozens of other ‘solutions’ being proposed that show a total ignorance of the problem and an absolute focus on whatever antediluvian agenda the proposer holds dear.

In passing, I don’t give a damn too for a tendency, at least on my timeline, for the conversation to segue into whether the ruling party or the opposition is more to blame or whether the media is ‘biased’ towards this or that particular political grouping — because, frankly, every political group currently active in this country has come out of recent incidents reeking of the medieval, the antiquated, the regressive, the repressive. All these conversations tell me is that we are still unable to move beyond our own peculiar, particular mental cocoons.

I don’t give a damn for any of the above because much as these statements give the media pegs to hang their ‘righteous indignation’ on, none of this is new, or startling. I haven’t heard anything in recent times that I hadn’t heard already — from an uncle who during dinner table conversation casually condemned a cousin as ‘fallen’ because she chose to leave the family fold and live life on her own terms; from parents who, sight unseen, refused me permission to marry the girl I wanted to because in their worldview, any girl who would ‘fall in love’ and ‘go out with’ men (or at least, with me) couldn’t be a ‘nice’ girl worth being invited into an ‘ancient family’; from ‘well-meaning’ ‘family friends’ who denied me shelter for the crime of marrying an ‘improper girl’; from a ‘friend’ who over rum and coke casually discoursed on the ‘bed-worthiness’ of a girl who had, just some weeks earlier, tied a rakhi around his wrist; from another ‘friend’ who once got up a dinner party and invited a bunch of us over just so the invitation could include a girl he hoped to take to bed that night…

The attitudes reflected in recent statements by various political worthies is neither new, nor particularly remarkable; tune our antennae inwards, and all of us can recall much worse being said in our presence — and sometimes, even said by us.

I notice that some of the more egregious statements have been ‘withdrawn’ — but how do you withdraw the mindset that spawned them? I notice that some political groupings have distanced themselves from those of their fellows who recently gained foot-in-mouth notoriety — but how do you ‘distance yourself’ from what is in your midst?

I don’t give a damn for any of the above because while we collectively obsessed over such asininities, a teacher and a watchman were found to have raped tribal girls in a school in Chhattisgarh; another minor girl was first raped, then forced to consume a poisonous substance in Faridkot; an 18-year-old in Alwar found life so insupportable thanks to constant harassment that she preferred death by self-immolation; a 15 year old was set on fire because she resisted rape… (okay, I’m stopping here — if your stomach isn’t turned yet, just google ‘rape’ for yourselves).

And? Even as the Delhi police take prompt action against Zee News for airing an interview with the Delhi victim’s friend in which he accused them of playing with red tape while he and the brutalized girl lay naked, cold and bleeding on the roadside, elsewhere in Delhi the discovery of a raped, murdered woman’s body turned the spotlight yet again to a seemingly endemic refusal on the part of the police to take timely action.

That’s what I give a damn about, just now — that even now, even after all this, nothing has changed.

Or at least, that is not quite true: something has. In Noida, the discovery of the woman’s body triggered mass protests and that in turn led to punitive action against the errant cops — just as the Patiala cops involved in harassing an 18 year old rape victim and hounding her to her death were suspended/sacked.

This is what we need more of: more protests when such things happen, more heat on the law enforcement machinery to force them to act. We need for police forces across the country to realize that here on, there is a penalty attached to not doing their job.

While on that, I don’t get the rubbish being spouted by top cops about holding courses to sensitize police to take action in cases of rape.

Say what?! Isn’t it the primary job of the police to take action when someone comes to them with a complaint? Any complaint? They don’t need to be ‘sensitized’ into doing their job — they need rather to be severely penalized when they don’t do it.

These are the things we need to focus on, I’d submit. The rest? Mere noise, of no significance whatsoever.

Reading Matter:

1. Via Nilanjana Roy and a new hub created to document, discuss and act on gender violence, a curated list of stories worth reading from the past one week

2. Natasha Bhadwar on the tyranny of silence and how the victims are finally finding a voice again

3. Harini Calamur, eloquently making my case for me, on why we need to focus laser-sharp on the basics

4. Annie Zaidi on why women are proving to be their own worst enemies

5. Law professor Mrinal Satish on the startling ways in which the law on rape is applied in practice. An excerpt:

Let me provide a concrete example of how the stereotypes find their way into the trial process through medical examination. Assume that in examining an unmarried rape victim, the doctor notes the presence of old tears on her hymen. The doctor also notes that she was able to insert two or more fingers into the vagina of the victim. Although the doctor does not expressly opine that the woman was sexually active, this information is conveyed to the court by way of the medical report. My study showed that in cases where the medical report indicated that the woman had been sexually active before marriage, lower sentences were imposed on the offenders who raped them. In contrast, in cases where the offender had raped a virgin, the sentence was relatively higher. Thus, the sexual history of the victim had an impact on the sentence imposed on the offender. Another factor related to virginity is the perceived loss experienced by an unmarried victim, in terms of her marriageability. The Supreme Court has in a number of cases noted how rape adversely affects the chances of a woman finding a suitable groom. In this context, the Court has even held that the marital status of the woman can be a relevant factor in rape sentencing. It is not surprising then that offenders who raped unmarried (and virginal) women got higher sentences in contrast to men who raped married women. Further, courts tend to impose lower sentences when a victim who was unmarried when the offence was committed, gets married during the trial. Since the rape did not impact the victim’s ability to get married, the harm caused by the offence is discounted. An egregious example of this approach is the Supreme Court’s decision in Baldev Singh v. State of Punjab (2011), another gang rape case that got a lot of media attention. One of the reasons that the Court gave for reducing the sentence in this case was that the victim was now married.

PS: Even as I finished writing this post and checked Twitter to see what else was going on, I found a teaser for a TV chat show coming up. Apparently the likes of Pooja Bedi, Chitrangadha Singh, Arjun Rampal and spokesmen from the VHP and Asaram Babu’s outfit are about to debate the latest hot topic: should Asaram Babu apologize (for idiotic remarks already alluded to earlier in this post).

Seriously?

PPS: It also turns out that in our haste to find new statements to outrage over, we are even making some of these up now. Vide this furor over a ‘second’ Mohan Bhagwat statement. Do we think of the disservice we do, the credibility we collectively lose, when in our rush to judgment we forget to fact-check?

PPS: I am traveling, with limited time and access; blogging will be intermittent for the duration. See you when I do.

Somebody’s daughter, and the politician’s syllogism

‘India’s daughter’ was cremated yesterday. (While on that, am I the only one who finds that appellation patronizing in the extreme? I understand the emotionalism behind it, but surely a society that failed the girl in life is, in claiming her in death, adding post-mortem incest to gratuitous injury?)

Anyway. She was cremated. And we console ourselves with the knowledge, or rather hope, that she is in a far better place now.

But even as her ashes cooled, somebody’s daughter, an engineering student en route to her tuitions, was forced into a car, raped, filmed, dumped.

Somebody’s wife died in Jaipur after her brother-in-law attempted to rape her and when she resisted, strangled her.

Somebody’s daughter, a 14-year-old, consumed pesticide in an attempt to end a life made insupportable when her brother-in-law and his friend raped her over a period of six days.

Somebody’s daughter was brutally attacked in the presence of her younger sister by the neighborhood boy who failed in his bid to rape her.

Somebody’s daughter, who went out of her home to ‘attend a call of nature’ (providing toilets to the less privileged is of course not on anyone’s agenda), was spotted by a passing stranger — and raped.

In Bhopal, somebody’s teenaged daughter, trying to make ends meet by working at a construction site, was gang-raped.

In Patiala, where somebody’s daughter committed suicide the other day when police added humiliation to rape, somebody else’s daughter, who was seeking a job in the police force, was raped, repeatedly and over months, by a cop and one other.

Somebody’s sister was assaulted by a conductor on board a moving bus in Bhagpat in broad daylight while others watched and her sister begged for mercy; when the bus was later intercepted and the girl’s family sought to question his conduct, the perpetrator and “his aides” responded with their fists. The police arrived and arrested two members of the victim’s family while allowing the conductor to go free.

The part that that gives me pause? It is not as if I did an exhaustive search for rape cases over the past day or so; these are just some instances that floated past me on my Twitter timeline this weekend. Plus, these only catalogue rape, both attempted and accomplished; they don’t even begin to map the unnumbered instances of “eve-teasing” (read the brilliant Nilanjana Roy on how futile that expression is), groping and all other forms of harassment women suffer in the home, on the commute, at work and at play (Read this, to get a sense of how pervasive abuse is; and here, a video where the women of Delhi speak of how they dodge abuse, harassment.).

Meanwhile, the search for instant solutions continues, driven largely by the media. On ‘Black Saturday’ (an honorific accorded 29.12 to distinguish it, presumably, from all those other gray and tan and off-white Saturdays when rape and molestation did not surface on our collective radar), I watched one TV anchor ‘grill’ Federal Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. Thus:

Sir, will you give us your assurance that charges of murder will be filed against the six rapists? ‘Yes, I assure you charges will be filed and we will ensure the strictest punishment.’ But sir, will you give a time-bound assurance? ‘I have assured you that charges will be filed…’ But sir the question is will you give a time bound assurance? ‘I have just assured you et cetera.’ Anchor concludes: That was Home Minister Shinde who did not give us a time-bound assurance despite our repeated demand for a time-bound assurance and so we still don’t have a time-bound assurance…

Just so we are clear that a “fast track court” is not the sublime solution we think it is, read veteran journalist Kanchan Gupta’s recap.

Elsewhere, for the entirety of a ‘special news hour’ that lasted 180 minutes, a noted anchor harangued a succession of panelists into agreeing with him that the government should ‘immediately, without any further delay’, summon a special session of Parliament. (And if there is some irony in summoning for a ‘special session’ a Parliament that, this year, set records for the least number of days worked, the least number of discussions, the least amount of time spent on question hour, the least number of bills passed, the most number of disruptions and walk-outs, leave it be).

What is this ‘special session’ supposed to do? Introduce the death sentence for rape, for starters. But how to introduce a provision that is already available to judges, and has been used often enough in the past? As recently as March 2012, a Sirsa (Haryana) court had imposed the death sentence on Nikka Singh, 22, who raped a 75-year-old woman and then murdered her by strangulation.

(In passing: Among the more risible outcomes of the presidency of Pratibha Patil was her wholesale commutation of death sentences imposed on 35 convicts, as she neared the end of her term. These included five people sentenced to death for rape. Oh, and to continue the comic interlude, one of the rapists she looked leniently on — Baburao Tidke, convicted for the rape and murder of a 16 year old — turned out to have already died of AIDS five years before Ms Patil posthumously accorded him a fresh lease of life. The disbelieving laughter that incident provoked echoes, still. This is the same Pratibha Patil, by the way, who now screams for blood.)

The point, however? The sentence of death is already part of the palette of punishment.

In passing, do we even remember that a bill designed to curb violence against women has been pending before Parliament for any time these last six years? That it — among other pieces of legislation — has been pending because our Parliamentarians have been too busy walking out when they are not creating “disruptions” and therefore have had no time to debate, discuss and pass the bill? Do we remember that another bill, aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace, has also been languishing ever since 2010 because Parliament hasn’t had the time to get down to it? Seriously — we are now calling for special sessions of Parliament to do what Parliament could not be bothered to do during regular sessions, lo any time these past few years?

Why this frenzied demand for instant solutions? Simple: fear of fatigue. For all the grandiose pronouncements of determination, for all the solemn vows that we will never forget, for all the self-serving announcements in the media that this ‘issue’ will be kept on the front-burner for as long as it takes, we know the truth: that in days, a week, tops, the energy will flag. 180-minute news-hours will be dialed down and the issue will become an also-ran mention while we move on to the latest scandal du jour.

It will happen, it is inevitable — after all, didn’t we make similar chest-thumping pronouncements about the fight against corruption?

But if we are to move on without feeling a tad sheepish, we need to be able to claim a victory — any victory. There needs to be a salve, a sop, to the collective conscience. (Reminds me of George Bush, prominent codpiece and all, claiming ‘Victory’ in Iraq through a stage-managed photo op after the Saddam statue was toppled and before the real war on the ground had even begun). We have a name for this: closure.

And in response to these demands, the political class is forced to respond, equally short-term. Appoint a commission. Call for chemical castration. Demand an emergency session of Parliament. Something. Anything.

These are manifestation of the politician’s syllogism which runs thus: We must do something. This is something. Therefore we must do this.

However, a ‘solution’ has to have some relation to the problem it seeks to solve. Step back for a moment and consider this: The Delhi rape? It happened in a bus that was plying without a proper license — a bus, in fact, that continued to operate despite complaints from no less than the DTC. It happened in a bus boasting windows tinted a darker shade than what was permitted, and covered over by curtains; the cops let it pass thru five different checkpoints despite specific laws proscribing such, and a specific Supreme Court stricture demanding that the capital’s cops enforce compliance.

What laws did we lack, that this crime happened under our noses?

What law was lacking that kept police from taking cognizance of this? What law was lacking that led police to behave thus and cause a young woman to end her life? What new law can we pass to ensure this does not happen? Which law will you amend to ensure that police don’t allow someone who molested a differently abled woman, deaf to her screams, to “give them the slip“?

Do you remember Mathura? She was somebody’s daughter, too. While her distraught family stood outside the doors of justice weeping, she was raped inside the very police station where she had gone to register a complaint. There was outrage then, too. Laws were passed, others amended, then too. And yet, as the grim catalogue of crimes against women in the 38 years since indicates, nothing has changed. Or more accurately, it has all gotten worse.

All this is just the police. If by chance or due to public pressure, investigations are carried out and cases registered and brought to court, the judges turn them down. When judges convict and hand down salutary punishment, the perpetrators go to the higher court in appeal, are promptly given bail, and the case is never heard of again. (An earlier post recorded the more famous of such instances).

So what do we have to show for all the laws we already have on our books? This: 635 reported cases of rape in Delhi alone, in the year just ending. And one solitary conviction.

The problem is not inadequate laws, or lack of laws — the root of the problem lies in lack of enforcement of existing laws, which in turn confers on the rapists a sense of immunity, even of entitlement.

If that is the problem, then the search for a solution has to begin with police reform. (As Saikat Datta points out here, the politicians who we now demand should meet in “special session” are the root of this particular problem.) Reform has to empower the police to act without fear, and include deterrent punishment when they fail to act; reform also has to set in place adequate oversight mechanisms so that citizens who fail to find redress know where to turn, which door to knock on.

And if we must reform our laws — and there is little doubt we must — then that reform should be sane, sensible, considered reform that addresses the real problems, not a knee-jerk addition of castration or whatever else catches our addled fancy. (Read Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy’s recommendations, for instance, to see how reform can be thought through.)

But all that is a long, tortuous trail to take — it is far easier to stick political band-aid on the issue and move on to other preoccupations. Hence these demands for ‘instant solutions’. But if we want real solutions, lasting solutions, then the hard road is the one we need to take, these are the conversation we need to have, the goals we need to pursue — no matter how long it takes.

PS: Here, a round-up of essential reading on the Delhi rape and related issues. If you come across interesting links, please add to the comments field? Thanks.

A nod and a wink

I’m not sure why, but the first thought that popped into my head when I read the Page 1 headline this morning was: Thomas Beckett.

Or maybe I do know why. Henry II may have asked ‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?’, or not. Point is, his actions left in the minds of the ‘more loyal than the king’ section of the nobility the impression that the king would actively welcome a bloody solution, that they could even be rewarded for it. Which is pretty much the impression Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appears to have created in a section of the law and order machinery.

For all any one of us knows, Modi had no desire to bolster his ‘strong on terror’ image through stories that set him up as a target for the Lashkar-e-Tayeba. For all we know, had the likes of Vanzara sought his express approval before killing the likes of Sohrabuddin Sheikh [the Geeta Johri report] and Ishrat Jahan, Modi would have been horrified, and refused point blank. For all we know.

Accepting all of that for the sake of argument, the question is: what is it about Modi — a man who clearly aspires to lead a national party and maybe some day, if the electoral dice fall right, the country — that led top police officials and even state ministers to assume that he would appreciate, even reward, fake encounters, stage-managed killings of innocent people, to bolster the impression that the Gujarat CM was constantly in the cross-hairs of terrorists?

Anand Jon: gone but not forgotten

Americans, suggests Easy Rawlins creator Walter Mosley in an essay for a Newsweek special issue [which, incidentally, makes for good reading], is obsessed with true crime.

Americans are not the only ones: I’ve been following, fairly obsessively, the Anand Jon case since his March 2007 arrest through the November 2008 jury verdict and last week’s sentencing by LA Superior Court Judge David Wesley – and I’m damned if I’ve come across a more tangled tale.

Like Mosley’s Americans, I like my heroes squeaky clean and my villains doom black, but the Jon case, playing out against the background of the colourful world of haute fashion, is painted in shades of unfashionable gray.

Is Anand Jon a designer more intent in creating an image [he at one time claimed to be a protégé of no less than Giorgio Armani – a claim the label was quick to refute] than in creating clothes?

Is he a hubris-ridden arriviste [his ‘I am my own God’ line gave prosecutors a compelling beginning for the opening statement] whose sense of entitlement turned him into a sociopath, or unwitting road kill in the path of a bunch of women looking for an easy route to the top?

Or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle of those two extremes?

I have no personal knowledge of the man outside of a handful of ‘same party, same place, same time’ encounters; sister Sanjana I ‘know’ in the ‘hello darling how’re you doing muah-muah we really must do a dinner one of these days’ way, but no more.

Absent personal knowledge, I’ve been following the case through the reportage, such as there is, on the internet – and available matter in the public domain throws up more questions than there are answers.

A favorite resource has been the reporting [her magazine feature for lamag.com here] and blog [Waxman’s trial-related posts here] of Sharon Waxman, and of the LA Post’s Steve Mikulan [post sentencing summation here, earlier Full Court Press posts here]. Here are two fairly extended pieces on the case, and the man; and here’s Manish Vij summing up recent stories.

The sense you get is that at various times, the prosecution stuffed up and so did the defense; that there is likely a fair degree of exaggeration in some of the victims’ accounts but also enough truth to suggest that Jon deserved to get it in the neck the way he did. [Besides the evidentiary weight the jury gave the testimony of some victims while rejecting the inconsistent testimonies of others, there is among lesser reported themes the point that some of the instances of sexual contact date back to 2004 – and in those, Jon was in violation of the terms of his probation after a nolo contendere plea to a charge of child abuse in 2003].

What leaves a bad taste in the mouth is the post-verdict media blitz mounted by Sanjana. Television viewing wasn’t among my priorities last week, but I did catch a bit of her shtick on NDTV vis a vis Rajdeep Sardesai, where among other arguments, she suggested that in one instance, the victim was 17 years and six months old, and hence could not be called a child – ergo, her brother was innocent.

Huh? Duh!

Getting everybody and his uncle KJ Jesudoss to speak out for Jon is one thing, but over the top doesn’t even begin to describe some of Sanjana’s antics following Jon’s incarceration. Like the time she walked the ramp at Fashion Week in New Delhi.

“I did it for Anand,” says Sanjana. “The fact that I can be a model and walk the ramp is a statement that I want to make to the other models. If I’m gonna dress for the ramp, somebody is going to touch me and if I turn around and accuse him of inappropriate touching – it’s ridiculous. I want those models (who’ve accused Anand) to get the message that I walked the ramp too.”

Again, duh! Jon wasn’t being accused of coming into contact with a model while adjusting her costume ahead of a fashion show – so what precisely this little stunt was supposed to prove is beyond me.

There is also the ‘racism’ charge, which has played out as a percussive undercurrent to the proceedings ever since Jon was arrested. Mercifully, the Indian American has largely steered clear of that one, despite the family’s best efforts to suggest that the designer is being victimized only because he is an Indian.

While on the India connection, back in 2007 Manu Joseph [now with Open magazine] reminisced about the boy he had known in college. What Manu diplomatically left out is the story that was pretty much general currency at the time — that Jon had knocked up the teen daughter of a very prominent business family, and had to flee in the face of the family’s wrath.

Anyway. This morning, an email landed up in media inboxes. As below:

Hello Everybody,

It’s time to prevail justice.

We need yourself and your help to SAVE a life of young Indo- American man of age of 32.

After loosing Big cases of OJ and other Celebrities DA of Los Angeles County FRAMED Celebrity to SHOW public that they are DOING something.

Let’s raise your voice for justice and save INNOCENT victim from Rape charges. No doubt Judge Wesley has given “”PRE MEDITATE” judgement to support DA’s office to retain credibility as District Attorney.

The DA’s Office have been fall short fighting against Rich people’s attorneys and at the same time revenge is taken out to Innocent Victim because he does not have fund to hire attorneys.

Who is the judge? A judicial politician who gets thousands and thousands of dollars to fight election to be elected judge. Let’s open the diary of donors to judge Wesley.

Let’s march – Let’s have candle light visual – Let’s FAST in front of DA’s office to prevail justice. If DA’s office so sure why not have re-trial? OR DA’s office does not want the golden opportunity given by Judge Wesley to punish Anand Jon Alexander

Friends, If you love humanity and you love justice Anand Jon Alexander deserves your support.

As Mahatma Gandhi said ” If you can not use your power for betterment of Human life that is ok but Do not destroy human life” Here, Pre meditate judgement of Judge Wesley is destroying upcoming a human life.

The time is an essence and action needs now. Can Anand count on your support?

Please circulate whom you love and whom you trust to prevail justice and Human life.

Fairly hysterical, ditto illiterate – and surprisingly, it comes from Sanjana’s personal email ID. The prose is in stark contrast to earlier emails that, while over the top in some of the allegations made, are characterized by much better phrasing.

At some point there is apt to be an appeal. Hopefully it will be fought on the evidence, and not on hype and hysteria. Hopefully, too, Anand will take a cue from this Sepia Mutiny post.

A clip, finally, from Waxman’s magazine article:

In Los Angeles, 20 of these women have made formal complaints against Anand Jon, resulting in 59 criminal counts, including forci-ble rape, sex-ual penetration by a foreign object, sexual exploitation of a child, sexual battery, and forcible oral copulation. The women say he did these things between 2001 and 2007. Some say they were as young as 14 or 15 when it happened and that he gave them alcohol. Several say they were raped repeatedly and in more than one city. The charges made headlines. Whatever the outcome of his trial here in Los Angeles, which could begin as soon as the end of August, Jon will face still more charges in New York and Texas.

In many of the cases against him, small-town values will collide with big-city realities, especially in the slippery sphere of cyberspace. Meet a girl, diss a guy, seek your fortune on the World Wide Web, and it can have devastating consequences. With a few keyboard strokes Jon found women, ping-ing them through MySpace or on sites such as onemodelplace.com and starsearch.com. Some entered his circle, and when their quest for renown ended, they reached back through the Web to find other former models who felt aggrieved or said they had sex with him.

What these women told grand jurors exposed the world of semicelebrity. Anand Jon was a promising young designer, but he was no Tom Ford, and his ac-cusers are not from the covers of Vogue. They both are from the Los Angeles culture of the nearly known, the almost there, drawn to ac-claim and made aware of the jagged edge just beneath its surface. Some people under-stand this well. Marla Maples, the sometime actress and ex-wife of Donald Trump, is a close friend of Anand Jon. She calls him “one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.” The women blaming him, Maples told me, are “not comfortable in their own skin.” As a girl from Dalton, Georgia, she says, “it breaks my heart to see this need we have to be famous. It’s very addictive.”

Ganesh a burglar magnet?

In Fairfax County, Ganesh has become a signal to robbers — and how weird is that?

Since January of this year, someone has been targeting homes in Fairfax County based on their ethnic and religious affiliations.

Police say the thief or thieves has been breaking in during the day while the residents are away in the Reston, Sully, McLean and Fair Oaks sections of the county. In each case, the burglar has been going after very specific items…..

Fairfax County Police say the homes favored by the burglar or burglars are in neighborhoods heavily populated by people of Middle Eastern or Asian descent. They say they’ve been looking for homes with religious symbols.

“It’s a Hindu symbol, I believe it’s called a Ganesh—I hope I am saying it right,” said Officer Tawny Wright of the Fairfax County Police Department. “But they hang it, some of them hang it above their garages or in a window, next to their doors, and like I said, and of the 16, a significant number have had this symbol displayed around their house.”

The report suggests the thieves are making the connection between the religious icon with the chance of finding gold jewelry and electronics. Passports and other personal documents are also being targeted, per the report.

Earlier interactions indicate that there are readers of this blog from that part of the world — anyone have anything to contribute, any experiences to share?