Monday, September 29, 2008

Learning to Value Freedom

Learning to Value Freedom
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

Mel Gibson is my favorite Hollywood actor. His movie 'Braveheart', is my favorite. It is a film about a great Scottish hero called William Wallace, played by Gibson himself. In the movie there is a wonderful situation where Wallace joins the Scottish army with his friends to fight against the British. When he realizes that his own countrymen are unwilling to fight against the 'mighty' British army and are prepared to flee from the battlefield, Wallace makes an inspiring speech as follows: 'Sons of Scotland, I am William Wallace… and I see a whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men—and free men you are! What will you do without freedom? Fight and you may die, run and you may live… at least a while… and dying many years from now would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day until that, for ONE chance, just ONE CHANCE to come back here and tell our enemies that they make take our lives but they will never take our FREEDOM!' True, freedom is worth trading our life for. After all what is life worth without freedom?

Alas, our incompetent and gutless Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it seems, never saw the movie. His qualifications, also, have not in any way helped him weigh the repercussions of the Indo-US nuclear deal against that of freedom of this great land. With the American Congress passing the deal, it's now just one step short of becoming functional and thereafter India may be a nation of free people but the country's freedom shall have been sold—forever. A blunder is being committed, a great act of betrayal is being staged, and yet the media is showcasing it as a 'great triumph'. Nothing to me is more bizarre than the irrational and illogical portrayal of these incidents by the media.

The idea behind the Indo-US nuclear deal is to remove the 34-year embargo on India by the superpower since its first nuclear testing under the reign of Indira Gandhi. But didn't India test nuclear weapons on a much broader scale in 1996? Were the technical embargoes any hindrance to Indians developing their own weapons of mass destruction? During the period of embargo didn't we develop the supercomputer PARAM indigenously?

When sanctions came our way, after the 1996 test, India came under heavy pressure. Financially, we had every reason to collapse. But that we survived our worst nightmare is a well-known fact today. We showed that India can stand independent. Just as our self-reliance was being tested and when we began proving ourselves time and over again, this government run by a 'super Prime Minister' (read Sonia Gandhi) controlling a weak and gutless pawn began trading India's fundamental freedom as a nation. Should we sign the deal, India's very independent foreign policy will be in the hands of the Americans. What could be worse than that?

India's resilient effort to be a free nation was tested by the British for 300 years. When the struggle for freedom began in 1857, thousands of lives were lost. These great freedom fighters didn't lose heart despite coming up against those who decided to bow to the British and licked their boots. They were broken, but they refused to bend over. Even during the time of Mahatma Gandhi, it was only five percent of the population who actually fought the British. All others preferred to stay within the comforts of their homes. But today, the whole of this country is asleep as this deal, crafted with clever draftsmanship only in the interest of the Americans and the neocons, is being inked. Is it true that we no longer care about our nation and its freedom?

Yes, we raise our voice in agitation. Columnists write and we read about things that matter to our faith and that which matters to our wallet. Are those the only subjects interesting the people of this country? Muslims are complaining of injustice. They may well have had injustice, but don't we being the world's largest democracy endow on them a 'right to justice'? Why have they to look at Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other countries for help?

Why does the media and so-called intelligentsia spend so much time justifying the violent acts of these Jihadists? Why is the issue of trade of our free will, as a nation, being seldom spoken of ? Hindus, who have been opportunists for generation, are no lesser culprits. I don't agree that 'Hindus are by default patriotic'. No, they are not. Look at the numbers of people who have shifted away to America after having got their education and other benefits here. Isn't that a betrayal? Christians in this country too are no small stakeholders in this great Indian sell-off.

Recently, a petty clash between two religious communities in Mangalore was being projected in the national media as a national distress, and this crucial nuclear deal was being pushed between the pages. Sad, but true, that how easy it is to fool and confuse the people of this country.

It's time that Hindu, Christian, and Muslim brethren wake up from their petty religious ideological differences and work in tandem to preserve the greatness of this land which is the true reason for their being and their religious freedom. Let them understand that there will be no freedom without a free nation. 'India is important and supreme'— let them acknowledge this first before availing the 'freedom of faith' from the constitution. Let them learn to value their freedom, before even demanding it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Iftar Party?

Iftar Party?
By Mubasshir Mushtaq

Come Ramadan and every political party – be it right-wing, left-wing or middle-wing – float a new (political!) party with a limited life: Iftar party. Its life expectancy is that of a month! As soon as the Eid-moon appears over the horizon, Iftar party packs off and goes into hibernation mode for the next eleven months! Unlike other political parties (whose target audiences are broad), their main target audiences are those Muslim dullards who confuse personal welfare to that of the community's welfare! It thrives on Jinnah's Muslim League agenda: divide, sympathize, rule and attain personal clout!

Did you say Iftar party? Are you still confused that the holy word 'Iftar' has been joined with that of an unholy entity called 'party'? Don't be. The marriage between the two is a unique union of strange bedfellows. What emerges from this union is an unholy alliance for an unholy purpose: to woo Muslim masses on every count! The moment anybody utters the term Iftar party, the image that conjures up in mind is that of a political party which has come into existence just to exploit religious observation of the Muslims. There is no other party in the world whose sole motto is so narrow and totally based on negativity. In Iftar party's manifesto everything else dominates over the true spirit of Iftar. But how can Iftar, a sacred act of the Believers, be connected with politics or vice-versa? Iftar is an Arabic word which is derived from the root word fatrann. It signifies breaking of the fast. What a political party has to do with the breaking of the fast? Political parties have their own system of interpretation. Let's try to unlock their interpretative code!

Perhaps a politician's limited brain with unlimited mischief thinks that the Iftar party gives him an opportunity for future capitalization among the Muslim masses. It gives him the ultimate advantage of mixing with the Muslims where he can flex his political muscles without any opponent present in the ring! It provides him a pleasant platform to talk about the confluence of Ganga-Jamni tehzeeb (existence of pluralistic society) although his main aim is to garner Muslim votes. It is an attempt to showcase who is who of the politics. It is a race to boost public image of the politician where parameter of power is measured on the basis of cash flow. It is a public relation exercise where each and every object of presentation (read flashbulbs, chairs, tables, plates, delicacies etc.) is chosen carefully after close scrutiny. It acts as an ointment to pacify old wounds of the Muslims! Iftar party is like a fisherman's net whose sole function is entrapment!

An Iftar party is a place where Jinnah comes alive: untouchable Jinnah caps suddenly become touchable. A politician's favourite Nehru cap is replaced by the Jinnah cap!

Unfortunately some of the self-appointed messiahs of the Muslims who grace Iftar party happen to be Muslim Ulemas. It is altogether a different matter that most of them are hired. Beware, we are living in an age of hire and fire!

Muslims, beware! Don't be seduced by the aroma of the political food because it contains ingredients which can impair one's independent way of thinking! Those who visit political Iftar party tend to confine themselves to pigeon-holes!

As Ramadan readies to depart, there is a sudden surge in political Iftar parties. It would be worth recalling Dr. Mustafa Kamal Sherwani's beautiful poem on political Iftar parties:

Count all the known 'BEARDS' with utmost care,
Seduce them all into our Party's voting share.
Give them the title of 'ULEMA' of high esteem,
When they come, like a beeline, it must seem.
Manage to make them sit in separate rows,
To send a strong message to our foes.
For us, all of them are a great asset,
Their every motion must be recorded in cassette.
The 'LONGER BEARDS' must occupy central places,
From all sides, the media must cover their faces.
On this gullible community is resting our hope,
To blunt its mind, these 'IFTARS' are a dope.
With round caps on, like them, you must look,
To trap these 'FOOLS', it is the best hook.

Tailpiece: Minorities especially Christians remain tense in South India as the dance of hate and naked communalism continues. A little known mysterious organisation called Sri Ram Sena (Army of God) has claimed in a press conference to have "1132 members" in their suicide squad. Their aim is to kill "anti-Hindu and anti-national" elements. Now with the emergence of mob terror, should Indian Penal Code take backseat? Instead of acting against the rabble rousers Police has played down the entire incident by terming Sri Ram Sena as "all talk and false threat." Are there two set of laws in India?

As I conclude the column, terrorists strike Delhi once again. We don't know much at this point of time but yet electronic media is indulging is guessing journalism. "Splinter group" is the new slogan. Police says they are looking at "all possible angles" but yet not so expert TV correspondents are selling the thesis that the blast "could have been carried out by the splinter group of those who are already in Police custody." 'Could have been' can never be a part of responsible journalism. Was Indian Mujahideen behind the blast?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Political Side of Mangalore's Mayhem

The Political Side of Mangalore's Mayhem
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

Last week, an untoward incident happened in Mangalore. The proselytizing center of 'New Life' Christians was ransacked by Bajarang Dal activists and, in the confusion, the Catholics too were targeted, thus leading to chaos.

There were two reasons that led to the attack by infuriated Bajarangees: first, the denigration of Hindu Gods and Goddesses; and secondly, 'forcible conversions'.

The following are the list of abuses from one such book — Satya Darshini — distributed by the missionaries of 'New Life'.

This book is in Kannada and the translation of the abusive passages are as follows.

· Urvashi, the daughter of Lord Vishnu, is a prostitute. Vashishta is the son of this prostitute. He in turn married his own mother. Such a degraded person is the Guru of the Hindu God Rama. (page 48)

· When Krishna himself is wallowing in darkness of hell, how can he enlighten others? Since Krishna himself is a shady character, there is a need for us to liberate his misled followers. (page 50)

· It was Brahma himself who kidnapped Sita. Since Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, were themselves the victims of lust, it is a sin to consider them as Gods. (page 39)

· When the Trinity of Hinduism (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) are consumed by lust and anger, how can they liberate others. Their projection as Gods is nothing but a joke. (Page 39).

· When Vishnu asked Brahma to commit a sin, he immediately did so. How can such an "evil Brahma" be a Creator of this Universe? How is it possible for both the sinner and the entity which provoked the sin, to be Gods? (page 39)

· God, please liberate the sinful people of India who are worshipping false Gods that believe in the pleasures of illicit, 'vyabichari', relationships. (Page 39).

A few days later, with the noble intention of bringing about peace, Christian and Hindu leaders held a meeting to thrash out their mutual differences at the city's circuit house. The meeting was fruitful and differences were sorted out.

Just as everything looked under control, the Congress and the JD(S), who have had a really tough time in the recent elections and who are facing a rather 'grave' threat from the BJP, decided to settle their scores. The BJP had recently begun extracting elected MLAs from the opposition thus, weakening the position of the Congress and JD(S) in Karnataka further.
Several leaders from as far as Delhi, started towards the city which was otherwise mostly peaceful and began reading their electoral speeches for the imminent Lok Sabha elections rather prematurely. It was evident from their acts that the reason for their being in the city was to lay the groundwork for these elections. Margret Alva, the leader of the opposition Congress, even went on record to say that the peace accord, arrived at with mutual consensus by religious leaders of both communities, was 'completely unacceptable to her'!

Continuing further with the attacks on the ruling BJP, Teesta Setalvad, human rights' activist, even targeted the police for 'atrocities' committed on the 'peaceful' Christians in the region. Kumaraswamy, the former chief minister of Karnataka, lost no time in jumping on to the bandwagon.

When the entire episode of attacks on churches was going on, I wasn't in Mangalore. I was undergoing treatment for almost a week's time at Hubli. Just a day before I landed in Hubli, a few non-Hindus happened to pelt stones at the procession of the Ganesha idol. The situation was almost similar as in Mangalore, but the police effectively brought the situation under control.
The damage caused to the idol and the accompanying paraphernalia wasn't any less in comparison to the prayer houses. Yet no politicos considered it to worthwhile to visit the place and convey their 'condolences' over the untoward incident. Why? I am yet to find an answer that is convincing enough.

The target of the Congress, Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)), and other 'human rights' organizations is now the Bajarang Dal. They are seeking a 'ban on the organization' which is even being compared by these politicos to notorious terror organizations like Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

Yes, I have to completely disapprove of the way in which the Bajarangees acted. They had no business taking the law in their hands. And such nefarious activities of the organization need to be stopped. It is completely against the norms of civilized society.

But I shall condemn all other allegations and even the unjust comparison of these Bajarangees to terrorists. Bajarangees are nationalists. The only thing that is supreme to them is their nation, their belief, and their culture. It is specified in the charter of the society that, 'The Bajrang Dal is not against any religion. It acknowledges respecting the faith of other people, but expects and asserts similar respect of Hindu sentiments. Being Hindu, the Bajrang Dal believes in the validity of all religions and respect for all human beings, irrespective of caste, color, and religion, (Aatmasvat Sarva Bhuteshu). It is for this purpose that the Bajrang Dal has undertaken various public-awakening campaigns. It does not believe in violence or any unlawful activity.'

Their ways may be wrong, but they aren't the wrong people. There is every chance of convincing these frustrated individuals and turning them on to the right path, unlike terror organizations such as SIMI.

The Congress and the other party in the opposition benches in the Karnataka State Assembly which popped up on the scene did nothing to ease the situation. Instead they provoked the sentiments of the Christians to further intensify their hatred against the Hindus and the ruling BJP. It is certainly not wrong to say that the opposition Congress and the JD(S) caused the communal tension which would have been long forgotten by now.

Given this, it is certainly not wrong to conclude that the instigators (Congress and JD(S)) are as much responsible for the situation as the perpetrators (read Bajarangees) themselves!

Media, Muslims and Mujahideen

Media, Muslims and Mujahideen
By Mubasshir Mushtaq

Now that the Delhi Police has "cracked" the bomb blasts, I can make my own confessions. Suspicion is not a fundamental right enshrined in Indian Constitution but it is an unalienable right in a flourishing democracy. Suspicion is the fundamental premise on which the edifice of our intelligentsia stands. Therefore, intelligence agencies cannot be denied the right to suspect. The same right to suspect cannot be denied to ordinary Indians. Equality is the hallmark of a true democracy.

The journalist in me has a problem when an official declaration, a chronological monologue, is treated as the gospel. It is not the job of a journalist to arrive at conclusions. The job of a journalist is to stand outside the circle and communicate nuances and niceties taking place inside the circle. When a journalist jumps into the circle, he becomes part of the story. Proximity breeds bias. Bias breeds bigotry. A true journalist can be anything but he can never be a bigot.

Journalistic bigotry is dangerous for it plays a vital role in shaping public opinion. Each such story leaves an imprint on public consciousness. In each blast, media, the fourth estate, behaves like fourth mistake. The needle of suspicion automatically swings towards Muslims whether it is Mecca Masjid blast or Malegaon blasts in which devout Muslims were specifically targeted inside their mosques. Every time there is a blast, Muslims find themselves in the no man's land. They are caught in the crossfire between intelligence agencies and terrorists. Neither of them will trust Muslims. The day-today Muslim problem is bread and butter rather than the bomb.

Each blast is viewed from the green lens of Islam although saffron lens is equally making India red. One of the reasons for these blasts is to put the entire Muslim community in the defensive mode by systematically manipulating Islam. The trick is like a psychological warfare before the beginning of actual war.

It is true that a minuscule minority among Muslims has become radical. It is equally true that a minuscule minority among Hindus has gone on the extreme. SIMI, RSS and Bajrang Dal, are competing identities, each one claiming to represent their respective community. It is competitive extremism at work which can be summed up in one-line: My version of extremism is better than yours! Media plays safe when RSS and Bajrang Dal are involved in bomb blasts while it indulges in triumphant journalism when SIMI comes under the scanner. The reason for this differential approach is commercial: No businessman would want to antagonize the majority Hindu readers. Media, therefore, claims to be nationalistic but it only practices majoritarian nationalism.

From a journalistic point of view, I have a problem when Police changes the names of 'alleged' (it is one adjective which we in the media have abused and used at will) masterminds overnight. First it was Abdus Subhan Qureishi (alias Tauqeer), now it is Atif, the "terrorist" who has been gunned down.

The journalist in me finds it hard to digest that Mufti Abul Bashar, the alleged mastermind of Ahmedabad blasts, is linked to Delhi blasts. If Bashar is really connected to Delhi blasts, the bomb blasts should never have taken place since he was in police custody when the blasts took place. How can Bashar, a poor madrasa-educated person mastermind Ahmedabad blast with such precision? When did Indian Madrasas start producing tech-savvy Muslims? Indian government would love that to happen! There won't be any need for Central madrasa board for modernization then!

Police says that the educated Muslims are involved in the blasts yet they arrest who will not be termed 'educated' by worldly standards. Mufti Bashar is just one example. A section of the mainstream media is extremely behaving like the nautch girl of Indian intelligent agencies. Instead of investigating the police claims, media is promoting self-contradictory journalism.
The journalist in me has a problem when a TV correspondent spits out the intelligence feed that there was a meeting of SIMI in 2001 where 200 youth were recruited to wreak havoc across India. What was our intelligence agency doing for the last 8 years?

Muslim accused are being branded as terrorists before the proper investigation and filing of the chargesheet. The actual trial by a court of law is yet to begin but the trial by media has already passed its judgement. Sample this:

"Mohammed Saif, the terrorist (emphasis added) who was arrested after Friday's encounter, even possessed a fake voter card." (TOI, September 21, page 1, Delhi edition)

Isn't it a perfect example of Judgemental journalism?

Meanwhile Muslims live under siege and fear. State, said Mahatma Gandhi, is nothing but organized violence. Friday's encounter of Jamia Nagar in Delhi raises some disturbing questions. Local Muslims have termed it as "dubious." They have reasons to believe so. As a Delhi friend put it, "No one saw cross firing yesterday. Only the police claim it happened. Did you read in any report that anyone actually saw cross-firing?" She added, "How come the two so-called terrorists managed to flee? There was only one exit." She asked, "If they knew they were going for a possible encounter, why wasn't the building or the area properly covered by the police?"

Her conclusion was chilling and disturbed me:

"But the point is that they can kill anyone anywhere. Tomorrow my brother might be the target and on flimsiest of grounds with no chance of proving the innocence. You are guilty just because they say so."

"It makes me bloody angry."

Indian Muslims live with fear, security, discrimination and terror tag. A bunch of the so-called 'Muslims' have hijacked their Faith. I detest when somebody says those who planted the bombs were Muslims. Indian Mujahideen, a faceless body, has launched a faceless jihad for the sake of Indian Muslims. A true jihad can never be faceless. If one peers through Islamic history, he will come to know that a jihad is a battle which is fought under the banner of recognition and not anonymity.

I see a problem when a country of more than one billion people can't arrest a loose bunch of murderers who want to convert India into a slaughterhouse.

Indian intelligence agencies have some much input yet they produce zero output.
India's 160 million Muslims have a problem: fear. And nobody is willing to even listen to them. They are the in-betweens of India's fight against terrorism. They want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. India needs to integrate them. A Muslim friend put it bluntly, "Rabindranath Tagore's poem 'Where the mind is without fear' no longer adorns my wall."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bangladesh: Cog in the terror wheel

Bangladesh: Cog in the terror wheel
By Susenjit Guha

With the New Delhi blasts killing close to 30 innocent people and wounding around 90 more last Saturday, India is getting to be a regular venue for terrorists, who pick selective targets in the capital city and other metropolitan cities in India with impunity.

According to the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington, D.C., the death toll of 3,674 people in India between January 2004 and March 2007 ranks it second only to Iraq in terms of terrorism casualties.

More than ever before, this has become cause for alarm, because unlike earlier strikes on Indian soil where the roots could be traced back directly to operatives in Pakistan, blasts in recent times are the handiwork of homegrown terrorists. In May this year, blasts in the Indian city of Jaipur took 80 lives, and, in July, terrorists killed 55 people in a strike in Ahmedabad.

Indian politicians are not helping the situation. Some raise the specter of fanaticism in the name of Hinduism to meet the terrorist threat head-on, keeping one eye on the exclusive Hindu vote, while others practice appeasement politics, treating fundamentalists the same as secular Indian Muslims, wary of losing the entire Muslim vote.

The Indian Mujahideen, strongly suspected of masterminding earlier strikes and claiming responsibility for the series of blasts in New Delhi in an email to the media, could not have made a move on their own if they had not been influenced by groups across the border in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Such a precarious situation raises several questions: Are adequate efforts being made by countries to address the roots of terrorism? Is the world, which is fixated on Pakistan’s volatile, rugged northwest region where American forces battle suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, increasingly overlooking other nations that either support terrorism or turn a blind eye to their operations?

It is alleged that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, has used U.S. aid over the years to wage covert operations in India. Allegations were rife about Pakistan’s role in the recent bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. The ISI is accused of sending terrorists into Indian Kashmir, who then train locals and indoctrinate them with their ideologies and philosophies, all in a bid to create mayhem in India.

There is no denying the fact that the ISI’s agenda has led to the creation of terrorist sleeper cells within India. In Bangladesh, where anti-Indian sentiments run high in certain circles, the ISI has sought to outsource some of its terrorism training to be used against India. Poverty, believed to be the cause for disillusioned youth to careen towards terrorism – though not always applicable in India – is the most potent reason for recruitment in Bangladesh’s villages.

The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, a terrorist outfit in Bangladesh set up by Bin Laden’s cohorts in the 1990s, was suspected to be behind blasts in the Indian state of Hyderabad last year. It is also believed that militancy in the name of Islam flourished not only under Khaleda Zia’s government in Bangladesh but also under past military rulers who looked upon radicals for support in the absence of popular public backing.

Bangladesh’s news daily Amader Shomoy, or “Our Times,” wrote that Al Qaeda senior leader Ayman Jawahiri’s visit to Dhaka, as the guest of a local handicraft dealer, was mediated by a Pakistani diplomat, quoting sources in the Dhaka metropolitan police.
The Weekly Blitz also featured a story on how Al Qaeda started operating in Bangladesh with the help of local Islamist leaders like Mufti Shahid, a close aide of Bin Laden.

Selig S. Harrison’s article in the Los Angeles Times, “Get a grip on Dhaka,” published July 2, quotes the U.S. State Department’s report of HUJI’s contact with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In his article, Harrison mentions how HUJI’s founder, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, a signatory to Bin Laden’s first holy war against the United States, “quietly built up terrorist bases in Bangladesh’s jungles, under the protective aegis of the military regime allied to militants.”

Bangladesh’s border along India’s eastern state of West Bengal is porous, which makes it easy for terrorists to infiltrate and intermingle with the similar ethno-linguistic population on the other side of the border, and later fan out to other parts of India.

Unless Bangladesh is brought into the focus of international attention in the aftermath of the terrorist strikes on the Indian subcontinent, a more realistic approach toward combating the menace of terrorism may elude policymakers not only in India, but in the United States as well.

Raj with no Reason

Raj with no Reason
By Mubasshir Mushtaq

The worst way to reason is to have no reason. There may be reasons not to have a reason. No reason is a good way to keep people guessing the reason. If you have the reason, you can't actually fool people not to know the reason. The reason has to be real and not imaginary.

Raj Thackeray, the nefarious nephew of Bal Thackeray, has been on rampage citing a single reason: imagined insult to Marathi language. Does speaking Hindi or any other language in the state of Maharashtra belittle Marathi? Jaya Bachchan's unintentional utterance that 'she will speak Hindi because she is from Uttar Pradesh' did not go well with Raj although Jaya had apologized right there to the people of Maharashtra for not speaking in Marathi. Is Hindi, our national language, a threat to Marathi, Maharashtra's official language? Can't Hindi and Marathi co-exist in Maharashtra? Language should promote harmony and not hatred.

Raj must salute India's tolerant democracy that allows him to indulge in lingual terrorism. Raj believes in lingual hegemony of aggression. He portrays himself as a messiah of Marathi language and Marathi manoos (Marathi population). Will his intolerant attitude towards Hindi promote Marathi? Aggression does not promote a language. It degrades the language and covers it with the dirt of exclusivity. If Raj sincerely wants to promote Marathi, he should rebrand his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) as Multi-National Sena!

He is using his mother-tongue to flex his political muscle and put himself on the state's political radar. Politics is the art of the impossible and Raj is very keen to master that 'art' even if he has to coin his own slogan of regionalism which is an antithesis to the very idea of Indian nationalism.

Raj's theatrics began with the formation of MNS when he felt that he is being 'sidelined' by Udhav, Bal Thackeray's son. A political party needs an ideology and issue to keep breathing. Raj raised an issue which became the core ideology of MNS: to check uncontrolled migration to Bombay from North India especially from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. This might have been a valid issue to an economically-impoverished Marathi but Raj's constant maneuvering and tirade transformed it into venom. Raj suddenly jumped to language from economics. What happens when a politician propagating regional economics tries to become a linguist? He becomes a political snake whose bite is communicable. 

Bal Thackeray became the first victim of the snake-bite when he blasted Shahrukh Khan as an "outsider" who calls himself a "Dilliwala." Why should Bollywood become a battleground for the uncle-nephew political rivalry? The answer lies in one question: What have the uncle-nephew done to improve the lot of hapless Marathis? They have only paid lip-service while Bollywood has paid fat cheques. Not many would know that Bollywood, the world's biggest film industry, employs thousands of Marathis. To cover their collective failure, Bal Thackeray and Raj are competing with each other to target a symbol of economic success: Bollywood.

Why has been the state acting like a mute spectator? The Congress-NCP alliance is in no mood to offend Marathi sensibilities. It has adopted an old British dictum: Divide and rule. It has tacitly supported Raj's rants in order to divide Sena's Marathi votes. Any official utterance is bound to have a long-term consequence. Marathi mass will not gain from this political triangle because players involved in this game are concerned about their private rather than public interests.

It is a dangerous game where Indian nationalism is being challenged by Marathi jingoism.

Lingual compulsions cannot succeed in a country like India. How would Raj react if Marathis working in the Middle East are forced to speak Arabic at public functions? Will Raj support the compulsion?

Bombay is a city that does not belong to any particular community. It is a city of Suketu Mehta and Salman Rushdie. It equally belongs to Dileep Padgaonkar and Shobhaa De`. It is a city of dreams where a Marathi as well as a Bihari co-exist to eke out a living. It is a city of irony where thousands come for bread and butter. And a few have come here in search of the bomb as well. Bombay is Bombay not because of Marathis like Raj but because of Gujaratis and Parsis who have nurtured this city into a cultural mega polis.    

Having stayed in Poona, I know the fact that Marathi is a civilised language. Deep down in my heart, I curse myself that I don't know enough Marathi to converse with government officials. I am not against any language; I am against the lingual compulsion.

Tailpiece: India bleeds by alarming regularity with the reemergence of Indian Mujahedin (IM). With Delhi blasts on Saturday, one thing is certain: Contrary to Gujarat Police claim that they have busted the real culprits, cyberpunks of IM are still at large and openly threatening to wreak havoc in India. A question which every Indian must ask: Is there any intelligent design behind it? 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Nationalism—A Concept Alien to Islam

Nationalism—A Concept Alien to Islam
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

As an egalitarian nation, India has the constitutional obligation to guard the religious liberties of every citizen. Hence, recently, when Mohammad Zubair, a corporal with the Indian Air Force, was ordered to shave off his beard to maintain uniformity, he took no time in moving the country's judicial system. 'A true Muslim must keep his beard', contended Zubair's attorney, stating that it was an essential part of his faith as per the 'Hadith' and 'Sunna' (recorded customs). 'We have the constitutional right to belief and practice of religion,' he said, seeking protection of his 'right' to grow a beard.

But is growing a beard really mandatory in Islam? Yes, the Prophet has said, as reported by Abdullah-ibn-Umar, 'Act against the polytheist, trim closely the moustache and grow your beard'. Thus, following these directives of the Prophet, Zubair is following his faith. But didn't the Prophet, in the same statement, also say 'act against the polytheist…'? Then, if promoted through the ranks, would Zubair not work against the 'polytheist' Hindus? Would he not follow the directives of his Prophet then also and seek to kill his 'polytheist' countrymen?

For years now, Muslim scholars, intellectuals, and journalists, have complained of 'deprivation' and the 'lack of special privileges'. They have presented in a very viable way as to what it is that they lack. But have they ever spoken gratefully of the privileges they have received? Not that I can remember of!

- Read More

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ahmed Faraz: Death of a Romantic

Ahmed Faraz: Death of a Romantic
By Mubasshir Mushtaq

He breathed life into the idea of romance in contemporary Urdu poetry. His romantic couplets may have sparked millions of romances all round the Urdu-knowing world but yet his writings failed to bring a revolution in his troubled homeland. Perhaps therein lies the irony of Ahmed Faraz.

I am not an obit writer; nor do I aspire to become one. August was a month of poetic obituaries; it was a month when angel of death plucked out longstanding poetic trees in two different countries: first it was Mahmoud Darwish of Palestine, and now Ahmed Faraz of Pakistan who died on August 25 at the age of 77. If Darwish penned the pain of Occupied Palestine, Faraz mourned a militarist Pakistan. Both voices signified the poetry of protest which is the last refuge of Muse. Surprisingly both bore an uncannily pictorial resemblance.

The poetry of Darwish and Faraz reflected internal struggles within the Muslim world. Their sane and at times insane voices provided an alternative platform for love as well as lament.
For Faraz, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq's military rule was boon as well as bane. He was arrested and later had to leave Pakistan. It left him bitter but at the same time it gave him enough space to popularize 'protest poetry'. As Faraz once said, "Yet it (military rule) also provided ample food for thought for the poet and made protest poetry so popular in Pakistan."

Faraz was a limited man but with unlimited ambition. Although Faraz was a wearer of many hats; his poetry can be summed up in two nouns each beginning with R: Romance and Revolution. Teenagers took comfort in his couplets while aspiring revolutionaries quoted him at length to drive their point. His ghazal Sunaa hai log use aankh bhar ke dekhte hain was an international hit.

Faraz was not just a poet of romance and love; he was a poet of masses as well as mass hysteria – a syndrome which has consumed so much of Pakistan. His poetry gave voice to the suppressed souls of a depressed Pakistan. He spoke against the Partition as well:

Ab kis kaa jashn manaate ho us des kaa jo taqsiim huaa
Ab kis ke giit sunaate ho us tan-man kaa jo do-niim huaa
(taqsiim=divided; do-niim=cut in two)

He breathed life into the idea of romance in contemporary Urdu poetry. His romantic couplets may have sparked millions of romances all around the Urdu-knowing world but yet his writings failed to bring a revolution in his troubled homeland. Perhaps therein lies the irony of Ahmed Faraz.

He was a crusading poet who did not believe in the idea of crusade. He preferred verse over weapon. He never shied away from raising the standard of revolt against the Pakistani establishment. He was an asset to Pakistan but Pakistan government treated him like a liability. He was a dissenting poet disenchanted by his own military government. It is primarily for this reason that he went into a self-imposed exile for six years. He told people of Pakistan to dream because he believed that dreams do not die. In his poem titled Khvaab marate nahiin (Dreams do not die), he said:

Dreams are not hearts, nor eyes or breath
Which shattered, will scatter (or)
Die with the death of the body.

Dreams do not die.
Dreams are light, life, wind,
Which can not be stopped by mountains black,
Which do not burn in the hells of cruelty,
Like light and life and wind, they
Do not bow down even in graveyards.

Dreams are letters,Dreams are illumination,Dreams are Socrates,
Dreams are Mansur!'

Faraz was a poet of official dislike and unofficial like. Pakistan of Pervez Musharraf tried to woo him with the Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2004. The trick did succeed initially. But the tricky success did not last. Faraz returned the award two years later because he was a man of conscience. He said, "My conscious will not forgive me if I remained a silent spectator of the sad happenings around us. The least I can do is to let the dictatorship know where it stands in the eyes of the concerned citizens whose fundamental rights have been usurped. I am doing this by returning the Hilal-e-Imtiaz (civil) forthwith and refuse to associate myself in any way with the regime..."

Faraz had compared his life to that of a candle.
Main bhi chup ho jaaunga bujhti hui shama'on ke saath…
(Shama'on = candles).

It will not be easy to forget Faraz. He will be remembered though he is not in our 'mehfil':

To laut kar bhi ahle-tamanna ko kush nahi
Main lut kar bhi wafa kay inhi kaaflon mein hoon
Badla na mayray baad bhi mozon-e-guftagu
Main jaa chuka phir bhi teri mehfilon mein hoon…
We have lost Faraz forever. In his own words:
Ab ke ham bichhde to shaayad kabhi khwaabon mein milen
Jis tarah sukhe hue phool kitaaboN mein milen

Those who know Urdu will understand the essence of the above verse because these lines will get derailed in English!

Tactics and Propaganda of Proselytization

Tactics and Propaganda of Proselytization
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

Ours is an era of capitalism—an era marked by financial prowess, controlled by financial czars, and ruled by corrupt politicos. The greatest weapon of our times is not one that kills the body's power to breathe, but the one which kills the mind's power to reason—propaganda. Any person or institution which successfully utilizes this system is the one who can be victorious in all endeavors. Organizations in this country, apart from political parties, who use propaganda are Christian missionary institutions. Their sole reason for being is to proselytize the masses, largely Hindus, into ardent Christians.

Beginning from the time of the British, we have developed a system of negation. We have often demeaned our own religions, cultures, and knowledge, thereafter hailing the western ones. How often have we spoken of caste, creed, and other discriminatory practices like Sati and child marriage in our textbook? And how much have we cared to inform our generation about the brutality of Christianity which has for itself the most blood-soaked history?

Recently, when violence flamed in Khandamal district of Orissa, mainline media were quick enough to criticize the violent agitation of VHP, while at the same time hastening to defend the foreign Christian missionaries whom they called 'peaceful'. I am still not clear as to what is making our eminent journalists term those missionaries 'peaceful', whereas their ambitions are such that they can't be achieved without disturbing peace and harmony.

In this context, I recall an instance where our late President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, had once gone to Assam where he visited the schools and hospitals established by Christian missionaries in those hilly regions. He expressed his appreciation and yet, also advised them saying 'You have no doubt done very good work. But do not exploit all these things for the purpose of proselytization.' However, one of the missionaries bluntly replied, 'If we had been prompted to do all this by mere humanitarian considerations, why should we have come all the way here? Why should we have spent so much money? We are here for only one reason and that is to increase the number of followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.'

These missionaries feel that all tactics, however foul, are fair. The various surreptitious and mean methods they employ for conversion are all too well-known. There is the case of a village where, in the census, the Christian missionaries got the whole population registered as Christians. When this was revealed, the people protested, and were told by the missionaries, 'Nothing can be done now. You have been registered as Christians in government records. So you have to behave as Christians hereafter.' The poor Hindu villagers, cut off from the support and succor of the indifferent Hindu society, believed their words and embraced Christianity. It is through such tactics that they are swelling their numbers with each passing day. It is popular knowledge that many leading Christian missionaries have often declared unequivocally that their one single aim is to make this country 'a Kingdom of Christ'.

What many people don't know is that Christ was born a Jew, lived a Jew, and died a Jew. He is not the founder of Christianity. If Christ could form a group of people called Christians and divide a section of society bringing about several wars and killing millions of people, then Christ cannot be considered a holy man. Christ did not build churches or sit in confession boxes. The cunning priests made Christ a son of God and created sin, hell, and heaven, to terrorize the people so that they can dominate and exploit them. It is evident that Christianity, followed by Islam, has killed more people than anything else in the world.

Sometime ago, I happened to read Edward Gibbons 'Decline and Fall of Roman Empire'. In the book, he makes an observation on early Christians and their tactics for conversion. Gibbons quotes a Roman proconsul who wrote that Christians have a very effective method of getting noticed and portraying themselves as 'victims' in order to advance their cause. Whenever a minute transgression occurs, or even an attempt is made to implement law against them, they kick up a fuss and in such a rowdy manner that one would think that a 'great injustice' had been committed against them!

Christianity does not have a reputation for tolerance and respect for other religions. The Christian need to convert the entire world has been an historical obsession that continues in major Christian fundamentalist groups even today—both Protestant and Catholic. The Christian missionaries' failure to honor other religions, particularly non-biblical traditions, is well-known, with Christians still denigrating the sophisticated yogic traditions of Asia as mere superstition, idolatry, and polytheism. Christian missionaries are known for using methods that are not always honest, including employing military and political force during the colonial era, to promote conversion. Their targeting of the poor and illiterate, shows that they don't like open debates in the light of day. Yet Christians like to ignore such inconvenient facts while posing as peaceful people concerned with human welfare, not with conversion. They are surprised if members of other religions are suspicious of them, despite their considering and condemning these religions as works of the Devil. They are easily hurt and insulted should anyone 'question their motives'.

In the modern secular world, Christians along with Muslims, now demand conversion as a democratic right, even though their religion is authoritarian, and not democratic, accepting only one way; and not honoring pluralism in approaching the 'Divine'. They offer no freedom of choice about the 'Savior' or the book or the creed that can bring salvation, and there is little tolerance for those who choose another way outside their faith. Europe had to reject the church and Christian dogma in order to become democratic over the past several centuries. Considering this, Christian churches should be the last to talk about 'democratic rights'. It is merely a smokescreen for promoting their own agendas, spreading their authoritarian and exclusivist beliefs, recklessly eliminating other cultures and religions along the way.

Some years ago, there were serial church bombings in South India. It turned out that the charges made by Christian leaders against Hindu organizations, accusing them of the bombings, were unfounded, if not malicious. However, instead of admitting their mistake, Christian leaders and organizations started a propaganda campaign again, blaming Hindu organizations for 'creating an atmosphere' that led to these crimes! The arrests in this regard, in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, showed that 'Deendal Anjuman', a Muslim outfit, headed by a Pakistani national was behind most of the blasts and attacks on Christian groups in southern India. The Christian response has been to ignore or deny the report, though it is quite well-documented and occurred in states not ruled by the so-called 'Hindu BJP'. For further details, I recommend reading of 'Church Blasts: Truth and Propaganda' by S Y Seshagiri Rao.

Christians in India, who exaggerate such minor incidents, somehow never speak of the fact that more churches have been burnt in America in recent years than in India. Several dozen Black American churches were burnt to the ground. Christian priests and ministers are robbed, assaulted, and sometimes killed in all Western countries in numbers unlike what occurs in India. We should note that the number of priests in America arrested for sexual molestation of children far surpasses the priests assaulted in India. Should we use that to make conclusions about the nature of Christianity?

It is a fact that many more pagans were killed by Christians, and thousands of pagan temples destroyed throughout Europe by this 'peaceful' community. The great Greek (Neo-platonic) Academy in Alexandria was destroyed and its illustrious scholars like Hypatia, killed by Cyril—none other than 'Saint Cyril'! The number of Native Americans killed or forcibly converted by Catholics is in the millions, and yet Catholics rush to martyr the few priests killed by Native Americans. There are many more such incidents of Christian oppression.

Writes David Frawley in his book 'The Missionary Ploy'— 'As a former Catholic, I know in what little esteem the Church holds Hinduism and Buddhism with all their great sages and yogis. Christianity, like Islam, sees tolerance not as a virtue to be emulated but as a weakness to be exploited. Were Christians really to honor Hinduism as a valid religion, all Hindu-Christian hostility could easily come to an end. As long as Christians hold that theirs alone is the 'True Faith' and work to convert members of other religions in one way or another, they should not be surprised if members of other religions do not welcome their presence.'

It is only a matter of time before missionary Christianity is seen for what is imperialism in the name of God and Christ; the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing. It is a political, worldly movement, with little spirituality in it. Unfortunately, such Christians confuse real Divine work, which involves improving the self through introspection, with the institutional work of imposing a single belief upon all humanity. This political view of religion has no place in the global age of consciousness that is dawning on enlightened minds all over the world today. The quicker it comes to an end, the better it will be for all of humanity!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Party in Power 'Crawls'

Party in Power 'Crawls'
By Seema Mustafa

The story is not over. And the story, regardless of the euphoric media, is no longer in the passage of the nuclear deal as that has become a foregone conclusion. If a government is willing to bend over backwards, accept any clause, any tail pulling, any compromise, there is no international deal that will fall through the world over. The reason why some deals do not make it is because these tamper with a nations sovereignty, dignity and pride and are not equitable in their impact. When a government is willing to swallow all that a nation stands for, even the most difficult pacts will go through.

The story has long since shifted from the nuclear deal to the UPA government's ability to sink as low as it possibly can for a divisive deal that compromises the country's future. The hype is such that the NSG waiver is being interpreted as a major victory, an end to India's nuclear isolation, of having reached the 'high table' if not by sitting on the chair, then at least as one television commentator put it excitedly, by sitting on the stool.

The story will unravel in the coming weeks and months. The first indications will come from the small print in the NSG waiver. The second will come from the visit of the Union Defence Minister A.K.Antony to the US where the Indian Air Force is currently in the 'final run' of the Red Flag Exercises that the US earlier only carried out with Nato member nations. India is now a proud participant having paid Rs 80 crores for the exercises where the air force of all the participating nations basically learn to work together through a series of complicated exercises. The third will come from the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the US in September, where he will no doubt be privately entertained by the lameduck, highly unpopular US President George W.Bush.

What is going to be the cost of sitting on a stool, or even a chair, at the high table? Most of this has already been answered, some of it will be answered by the NSG waiver when it is finally released, read and understood. This cannot remain a secret document as was the letter written to late chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee Tom Lantos by the State Department. In this 45 key questions were answered in what amounts to a policy declaration by the Bush administration on the nuclear deal. The Indian government has claimed it had no idea about this, surprising really as every one concerned with the nuclear deal or writing on the nuclear deal was aware of its existence and some of the contents. The government should have asked the US administration for the document that was neither secret or classified. The US claims that New Delhi knew the details, the government here continues to deny this hoping that the generated vagueness will work to its advantage.

The letter establishes what has been written by India's nuclear scientists and strategic experts over and over again, spoken of by the Left and Opposition leaders, and discussed threadbare in Parliament. The government instead of responding to the consensus against the nuclear deal in Parliament has sought to buy approval with money and berths, and has resorted to every little trick in the book to see this dubious deal through. The letter released now by the US foreign affairs committee of the House of representatives clearly shows that 1) if India conducts a nuclear test, the US will cut off nuclear trade and take back all the nuclear materials it has supplied, including fuel.2) there will be no guarantees of perpetual fuel supply; 30 there will be no transfer of sensitive technology and 4) the Hyde Act and the US Atomic Energy Act will be as binding on this nuclear deal as the 123 agreement. Pointing this out former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission P.K.Iyengar says, "we find ourselves in the following impossible situation. If we go ahead with the nuclear deal and by some miracle we even manage to import nuclear power at competitive prices (many years from now) we simultaneously destroy our strategic programme as well as put ourselves at the mercy of the nuclear cartel. How can this deal be in the national interest?"

The Hyde Act that the US has to implement as the enabling legislation for the nuclear deal, further shackles India's foreign policy options to those "congruent" with the US. It is amazing how not a single diplomat, present or former, ecstatically supporting the deal has stopped to ask what the US is getting from the nuclear deal. In fact they have all joined the Prime Minister and his ambassador to the US Ronen Sen in projecting Bush as a messiah committed to solving India's energy problems for little more than climate change returns! India has been already garnering its foreign policy to that of the US. The vote against Iran at the IAEA, the complete silence on the terrible developments in Iraq, the support for the Karzai government with little word about the regrouping of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the China threat, the reluctance to endorse the Maoists in Nepal, in short the inability to think and act for ourselves. In defence, we have been diverting procurements away from Russia to Israel in what is yet another major strategic shift.

The UPA government has taken the deliberate decision to push India out of the non aligned camp into the US embrace. The nuclear deal is the symbolic and strategic step towards this. US State department officials have said as much, pointing towards the significance of the nuclear deal for the new relationship in South Asia, now that Pakistan has become defunct as a strategic partner, and for bringing India into the non proliferation regime without signing the NTPT or the CTBT. In doing so Singh and his cronies have ensured 1) India does not test, as the price of testing will be too much in terms of just dollars for this country to bear. It is a fact that India does not have a credible deterrent, and by refusing to define this the government has abdicated responsibility at this stage; 2) India no longer has independent control over its nuclear asserts with the US Congress now having a bilateral say in determining the nature of the civilian nuclear program; 3) the nuclear energy generated ---after twenty years---will meet only five to six per cent of the total national requirement, and will be phenomenally expensive and 4) the larger agreement on defence, agriculture, knowledge, democracy that was signed between Singh and Bush will now be acclerated. One of the goals is to draw India into the Proliferation Security Initiative, and make it a firm partner for implementing US plans in Asia.

The reasons for India's opposition to the nuclear deal have not been diluted with the NSG waiver. Rather these have been strengthened, and the loud bleating of supporters cannot take away from the fact that the government has surrendered strategic space to another country. And what makes it worse, there was no need to. A defence officer was so right when he said the other day, "we are in a position today to dictate our terms and conditions, we are such a huge market, every one is coming here, but somehow we end up accepting every thing others dictate." Why? Because our Prime Minister is not able to show us the way, and the party in power believes its better to crawl when asked to bend.