Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ayodhaya Verdict: Indian Voodoo Justice

India has long been known in the West as home of the snake charmers and rope tricksters. Now it will be more famous for one of its most modern and much admired modern institutions turning out Voodoo justice – an amalgam of law and faith impacting the judgments given out by the 3 judge bench of a High Court, all with their version of how Indian law should be interpreted. The Ayodhaya Verdict will go down in history as one of the finest example of an old tradition-steeped country trying to wear the garb of a new nation without realizing its slip is showing. In fact, the Emperor wears no clothes.

For one of contestant of the title suit of the Babri Masjid property, the Muslims, it is a mockery of justice as per the long traditions of legal and judiciary system introduced by Colonial British in India two hundred years back and now very much entrenched in its polity. The Hindutva version of justice takes Indian justice to another two thousand back, even prior to any sharia laws of Muslim era, and the verdict seems to be forerunner of how ‘Vedic’ ( term used for lack of any other suitable Hindu term: with apologies), in contrast to Islamic Sharia, laws may be changing the entire ethos of Indian polity.

While Pandit Nehru, a high-caste Kashmiri Brahmin, thanks to his exposure to Fabian culture that was in fashion when he studied in Great Britain, tried to position the newly independent India into a gradual slide into the modern world, by introducing ‘secularism’ as India’s constitutional creed, he was so overwhelmingly and suffocatingly surrounded by hard-line Brahmins, even in his own Congress Party, that it is a miracle that the fa├žade of secularism is still in vogue in India and the Hindutva hardliners too have eventually found shelter in secularism’s benign shadows.

The shameless display of triumphalism shown by Saffron Brahmins, while spewing high moral slogans of unity and integrity in Indian society, is ample example of how the fascists have completely taken over the entire country, lock, stock and court hammer. The only alternative for the rest of the people, who are decidedly non-Brahmins, is to size up the danger of Brahmin conspiracies and boycott all Brahmin political groupings, including Congress and BJP. Muslims should vote even for a ‘kala chor’ (black thief in local parlance) rather than vote for Congress. They can hardly ignore how the earliest comments by a Congress leader, Chaturvedi, (a Brahmin), on a TV channel, came out applauding the verdict as facilitating a new phase of unity and integration among communities; apparently on Brahmin terms.

150 million Indian Muslims (15% of Indian population) should realize that India is as much their country, as it is of 30 million (3% Indian population) Brahmins and if they want to regain their stakes in their own country, they will have to reorganize and play the game by the rules of the game that is now being promulgated by the Brahmins, till the time the Brahmins are sidelined. And decidedly that is not a tall order, as far as US is posing as friend of India.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ayodhya: Waiting for the Verdict

By Ram Puniyani

The Allahabad High Court is to give its verdict on the Ayodhya issue on 24th September 2010. The case has been in court for long years. The court is essentially going to touch upon three major issues. Whether there was a temple at the disputed site before 1538, whether the suit filed by the Babri Committee in 1961 is barred by limitation and whether Muslims perfected their title through adverse possession.

While the judgment is awaited there is a lot of tension in the air about the same. The whole issue has been deeply linked to the faith and has been used to whip up communal hysteria. As such Muslim minority has been the major victim of the violence due to communal issue which has used the emotive appeal around Lord Ram. Just to recall, the matter came to surface when some Hindutva forces forcibly entered the Babri mosque on the night of 22 December 1949 and installed the Ram Lalla idols in the mosque. Despite the repeated messages of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the local administration let the matter drag.

Incidentally, the local District Magistrate K.K. Nayyar who let the issue sow the seeds of discord in times to come joined Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the previous avatar of BJP, after his retirement. He became the Member of Parliament from the area. During the decade of 1980s, BJP took Babri issue as its main plank. The pressure of VHP and others on political scenario went up and the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in a thoughtless move got the locks of Masjid opened and Shilanyas for the temple was perfumed. Advani’s Rath Yatras stepped up the temperature; violence followed and prepared the ground for the final assault on the Mosque, the Kar Seva of 6th December 1992. This demolition was coordinated by BJP-VHP-Bajrang Dal under the supervision of their father organization, RSS. The demolition of the mosque was followed by ghastly violence, in Mumbai, Surat and Bhopal in particular. This also led to the strengthening of BJP, whose number of MPs went on increasing and it could come to power at the center.

Despite its communal rhetoric BJP had to bite the dust during last two general elections, 2004 and 2009. BJP has been trying to experiment with different emotive issues through its sister organizations but no other issue has been as powerful as to bring it to center of political power again. And now with this forthcoming verdict in offing its sister organizations have stepped up the campaign to demand the building of Ram temple irrespective of the judgment. In anticipation of the judgment, there are various types of efforts which are on in the society. The local peace groups in Ayodhya, which have played a significant part in maintaining peace in the aftermath of the demolition, are trying to appeal that whatever be the court verdict it should be accepted by both the parties, and that will be a fair way for the social harmony.

The Government is trying to put forward a legalistic view and is appealing for calm in the society. Most of the Muslim groups have requested for maintaining law and order. They are also committing to accept the court verdict. The RSS affiliates on the other hand, claiming to represent ‘all’ the Hindus, are on a different trip. For them the court verdict is immaterial and irrespective of the court verdict they are asserting that Ram temple has to be built at the site as that is the ‘wish ‘ of Hindus. The RSS chief has repeatedly said that Ram Temple has not only to be built but also that Muslims themselves should accept the Ram Temple coming up there to prove that they are’ patriots!

In RSS camp, BJP at the moment seems to have taken a back seat as it feels that the verdict of last two elections has amply proved that people of India are not in favor such issues coming to political arena. But even if BJP is on the back foot, RSS has no problems as it has its other wings which are doing that job. VHP has launched a multi-pronged effort through meetings, leaflets, booklets and SMS campaigns, exhorting Hindus to call for Ram Temple at the site. Its message is laced in the emotive language aimed to rouse passions. It is also planning to bring in the ‘sadhus’ to restart the campaign and has called a ‘Dharam Sansad’ (Religious Parliament) to react to the court verdict, i.e. to ask for temple irrespective of the judgment.

In this context there is a section amongst thinkers who are calling for establishment of permanent ‘History and Truth Commission’ to investigate and authenticate historical claims of ‘rights and wrongs’. It just shows how much history has been ‘used’ for current political goals. It was British who had introduced ‘communal historiography’ to pursue the policy of ‘divide and rule’. While Muslim League and Hindu Mahsabha-RSS picked up the communal view of History, the National movement led by Gandhi took a different view, which was more in tune with uniting all the people. The likes of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar saw the history as the history of either class or caste oppression irrespective of the rule of the Kings of one or the other religion. At one level the formation of such a commission is welcome since so much muck has been left behind by the British policy, which continues to shape the ‘social common sense’ even today.

History cannot be looked at as just the history of rulers and that too seen through the prism of religion. Other components of society, workers, women, dalits and adivasis also must be given the Historical space, which is due to them. Today we are at a crucial juncture. The core issues of society, bread, shelter, employment and Human Rights need to be brought to the front stage and the Temple-Masque disputes can be left to the rational historians and the law of the land. All of us need to adopt this attitude and accept the process of law and the values of Indian Constitution.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hunger Proliferates In A Democracy; India Tops The Chart


By Devinder Sharma

This is a chart that should put every Indian into shame. Not only an Indian, but also those who swear in the name of democracy. How can people's representatives remain immune to the growing scourge of hunger? Shouldn't this provoke you to ask the basic: why should hunger exist in a democracy?

The illustration above [released ahead of the Sept 20-22 Summit of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)] reflects the monumental failure of the global leadership to address the worst tragedy that a democracy can inflict. Amartya Sen had said that famine does not happen in a democracy, but let me add: hunger perpetuates in a democracy.

The hunger map above is also a reflection of the dishonesty shown by the international leadership to fight hunger. Hunger is the biggest scandal, a crime against humanity that goes unpunished. At the 1996 World Food Summit, political leaders had pledged to pull out half the world's hungry (at that time the figure was somewhere around 840 million) by the years 2015. This commitment was applauded by one and all, including the academicians, policy makers, development agencies and charities, and you name it.

This commitment alone demonstrated the political indifference to mankind's worst crime. Considering FAO's own projections of the number of people succumbing to hunger and malnutrition at around 24,000 a day, I had then said that by the year 2015, the 20 years time limit they had decided to work on, 172 million people would die of hunger. And when the world meets for the MDG Summit in a few days from now, almost 15 years since the WFS 1996, close to 128 million people have already died from hunger.

And you call this an urgency?

No one across the world stood up to call the bluff.

Hunger has instead grown. By 2010, the world should have removed at least 300 million people from the hunger list. It has however added another 85 million to raise the tally to 925 million. In my understanding, this too is a gross understatement. The horrendous face of hunger is being kept deliberately hidden by lowering the figures. In India, for instance, the map shows 238 million people living in hunger. This is certainly incorrect. A new government estimate points to 37.2 per cent of the population living in poverty, which means the hunger tally in India is officially at 450 million. Even this is an understatement. The poverty line is kept so stringent in India (at Rs 17 per person per day) that in the same amount you cannot even think of feeding a pet dog. I wonder how can the poor manage two-square meals a day under this classification.

Hunger is also growing in major democracies. In the US, it has broken a 14-year record, and one in every ten Americans lives in hunger. In Europe, 40 million people are hungry, almost equivalent to the population of Spain. Interestingly, most of the countries in the hunger chart are following democratic forms of governance. And yet, the only country which has made a sizable difference to global hunger is China, which as we all know is not a democracy.

Is it so difficult to remove hunger? The answer is No.

While there is no political will to fight hunger, the business of hunger is growing at a phenomenal rate. The economic growth paradigm that the world is increasingly following in principle aims at minimising hunger, poverty and inequality. But in reality acerbates hunger and inequality. Economists have programmed the mindset of generations in such a manner that everyone genuinely believes that the roadmap to remove hunger passes through GDP. The more the GDP the more will be the opportunities for the poor to move out of the poverty trap. Nothing could be further away from this faulty economic thinking. This is the biggest economic folly that a flawed education system has inflicted.

And it is primarily for this reason that after the 2008 economic meltdown, the international leadership pumped in more than $ 20 trillion to bail out the rich and crooked. On the other hand, removing hunger and poverty from the face of the Earth would cost the world only $ 1 trillion at the most, for which the resources are unavailable. But there is all the money in the world to fill the pockets of the rich, hoping that it would one day trickle down to the poor. Privatising the profits, and socialising the costs. Isn't this political and economic dishonesty?

Hungry stomach offers tremendous business opportunities. Rich economies are buttressed by speculation and free trade in food and agriculture. Opening up of the developing economies provides them opportunities to sell unwanted technologies/goods in the name of development. Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector sees the poor as a business opportunity to bail out the companies from sluggish growth. Micro-finance steps in to empty the pockets of the poor, again in the name of development. So much so that even Climate Change provides tremendous scope to milk the poor.

All this is happening in a democratic world.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Colors of terror: Saffron, green or Black?

By Ram Puniyani

Can terrorism be labelled or given the prefix of a holy color associated with religious sentiments? This debate came to the surface with P. Chidmbaram stating, "There has been a recent uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts in the past. My advice to you is that we must remain ever vigilant and continue to build, at both Central and state level, our capacities in counter-terrorism," to the top policemen (August 25, 2010).

There was a strong reaction to this from the Hindutva parties, parties working for the goal of Hindu Nation, BJP and Shiv Sena. The Congress spokespersons were also in a quandary, one of them supported the statement and the other one disowned it, saying that terrorism has just one color- black. BJP spokesperson demanded apology. Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray demanded resignation of Mr. Chidambaram, while his father, the supreme dictator of Shiv Sena, Bal Thackeray, demanded to know the color of bloodshed in Kashmir and Delhi anti Sikh violence.

Chidambaram’s statement has a background of multiple acts of terror coming to light since the Malegaon blast of Sept 2008, when role of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Swami Dayanand Pandey, and Swami Aseemanand came to surface. It was Hemant Karkare, Chief of Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad, who successfully unearthed the whole conspiracy by these saffron clad people. They had other associates in Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit, retired Major Upadhayay and many others, who are working for the goal of Hindu Rashtra. This blast was preceded by many similar one’s in which associates of Abhinav Bharat, Sanatan Prabhat and Bajrang Dal were suspected.

Just to recall, when this conspiracy by all those inspired by the ideology of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ came to surface, there was a great discomfort in BJP-Shiv Sena RSS quarters. Shiv Sena mouth piece Samana stated ‘we spit on Karkare who is investigating this case’. On the other hand a major BJP leader stated that Karkare is anti national (Deshdrohi). Same Karkare was killed when the terror attack took place in Mumbai on 26/11, 2008. The real undercurrent of this complex story is yet to be unravelled and recognized fully, still the situation leading to the death of Karkare led the then minority affairs Minister A R Antulay to say that there might have been terrorism plus something, which led to the killing of Karkare, the man investigating these terror blasts.

It is after this event that the word Saffron Terror, Hindu terror came into being and got wide currency. This prefixing of religion and a holy color of a religion came in the backdrop of wide usage of another word Islamic terrorism, Jihadi terrorism, the words coined by American media and picked up world over. Surely these terminologies, Islamic terrorism and Hindu terrorism are misnomers. The word Jihadi Terrorism and Saffron terrorism have been used to describe a pattern in these acts of terror. Jihadi word was a deliberate concoction as Jihad does not mean killing, it stands for striving for betterment etc.

What about Saffron Terrorism, the term used by Chidambaram and many other scholars-activists-journalists? It can be explained in the context of this word, saffron, being high jacked by the believers of ‘Hindu Nation’, the believers of Hindutva, a political ideology using the identity of Hindu religion. One knows that to use the word Hindutva is fraught with dangers. It is a politics but gives the impression of being a religion. This word was coined by Savarkar, the ideologue of Hindu Mahasabha. As per him, it means whole of Hinduness, race (Aryan) geographical area between Sindhu to Seas and Culture (Vedic). This was a word parallel to political Islam, which was made the base of politics of Muslim League. Muslim League used a green flag, Hindu Mahsabha used saffron flag.

Later RSS from 1925 picked up the ideology of Hindutva to attain Hindu Rashtra. In contrast to Indian tricolor, RSS insisted on using saffron flag. Saffron color which stands for renunciation and devotion in Hindu tradition was usurped for political goals, the goals which were opposed to the goals of Indian National Movement. Indian National Movement was struggling for plural, secular democratic India, while the bearers of green flag, Muslim league wanted and Islamic Nation and those waving saffron flag wanted Hindu Nation, both these political currents were a throw back to times when the concept of democracy, human rights was absent and the status of dalits and women was subordinate to men of high social status.

During the decade of 1980, RSS, VHP and associates launched their campaign for Ram Temple and there was a blatant use of religious imagery and symbols for political goals. As such the political goals of RSS progeny, the agenda of Hindu nation harps to the values of Manu Smiriti in modern form. Surely this politics asserts the supremacy of social system prevalent in ancient times. No wonder, Ambedkar burnt the Manusmirti and later drafted the Indian Constitution to project the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

RSS and company used the symbols of saffron flag in its mobilization campaigns all through 1980s and 1990s. There was extensive use of saffron stickers for political propaganda for Ram Temple and Hindu Rashtra. RSS has a whole wing of assorted saffron clad sadhus, asserting that Hindu holy books have a primacy over Indian legal system; Indian Constitution. VHP, to which these sadhus belong is the other major RSS associate. VHP stated that decision of the holy, saffron clad sadhus is more important than that of Indian courts. In a nutshell, saffron color, the color associated with religious sentiments came to be abused by this political outfit for its political goals. No wonder its politics came to be associated with saffron color.

During NDA regime when BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi was communalizing the school text books and education system, it came to be labelled as saffronization of education. It is pity that a holy color of renunciation has been associated with a political ideology. The present statement by Chidambaram is just a continuation of the popular association of the word saffron with Hindutva-RSS politics in the political arena. In the present era of monopolar World, dictated by the ambitions of US greed for oil and plunder of the global resources, politics has been given the veneer of religion. That’s why they use the word ‘Clash of Civilizations’ for their political goals.

That’s why so far Islam and Muslims have been demonized. US and large section of globe, India in particular, are in the grip of Islamophobia. It is time we see the sanctity of religions and oppose the use of religious symbols, colors and terminologies for political goals.