Sunday, October 26, 2008

Nurture Secularism

Nurture Secularism
By Seema Mustafa

It took a lot of guts for the Orissa nun to come out with her testimony. I had visited the exact spot in Kandhamar district, just days after she was raped, and the burnt jeep, the desecrated statues of Jesus Christ, the broken windows bore testimony to the gruesome violence in the name of religion. Villagers looked on from a distance but when we went and spoke to them the story came pouring out. Yes a priest and nun were caught by the mobs, they were stripped and beaten, they were paraded through the village to the market place where the police stood and watched, and yes the nun was raped.

And what has happened since? Nothing. For days and weeks the Navin Patnaik government stood by and did nothing to protect the poorest of the poor as they were killed, and turned out of their houses just because they were Christians and refused to give up their faith. The attackers speak of conversion, but there has been no forcible conversion, only conversion under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution that gives every single religion in this country the right to preach and propagate. The force was being used then, and is being used now, to beat Christians into renouncing their religion and embracing the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and RSS version of Hinduism.

The nun was not in hiding, she was in hospital, physically and mentally traumatized. She was treated for not just the bleeding wounds but also for the mental trauma, and has only just about recovered sufficiently to come out in public with her story. It took courage, and she should be respected for what she did. Not just for herself, not just for the Christians but for women and humanity. Her right to privacy has to be respected, and it is now for this UPA government that somehow still claims it is secular to ensure that she and the other victims of the horrific violence in Orissa and Karnataka must not be dragged through the coals. The nun is right, and any one who has visited Kandhamar can vouch for this. It is not safe for her to even step inside that state, let alone the district and be questioned by a police force that has done great disservice to the uniform by allowing the mobs to terrorise and brutalise a community.

Some sections of the Christian community, probably in sheer desperation, opened dialogue with the RSS and its ilk. Others criticized them, for they know that this dialogue is false insofar as the RSS and its front organizations are concerned, and its leaders use it to project themselves as one, secular and two, as alternatives to the state with the power to restore peace. Some time ago, religious Muslim leaders too opened this dialogue with the RSS and even attended BJP conferences and meetings to prove their "we are all one" point. In some ways they are, because fundamentalism regardless of the religion gets together at some point, particularly when it has to counter its real opponent: secularism.

Secularism is an ideology that works around the fundamental principle of equality and justice. It is unfortunate that those in power today cynically exploit this to suit their ends. The BJP is more honest, it does not even bother to pay lip service to the cause, and basically denounces all those who do not agree with its divide and rule policy as pseudo secularists or anti-nationals. The Congress remains as hypocritical as always, and has become an expert at fiddling while mobs destroy lives and homes. The regional parties are not exactly communal but are totally opportunistic using specific vote bank policies with more dexterity now than even the Congress did in its better days. The regional leaders do not hesitate to join up with communal parties as and when it suits them but to give them their due, the Nitish Kumars, Chandrababu Naidus and Mayawati's do manage to preserve some levels of communal amity. After all today the unrest amongst the minorities is greatest in Congress ruled states and not in Bihar, or for that matter Uttar Pradesh (except for Azamgarh that had a direct link with Delhi) where despite the large Muslim population, the atmosphere is more peaceful and harmonious.

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil has disappeared from view. His greatest achievement has been to escape the axe after he assured Congress president Sonia Gandhi that his loyalty to her could never come under question. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is wandering the world, earning accolades for the nuclear deal and for growth gone wrong. Parliament in a parliamentary democracy has been diminished as an institution. The government is directly responsible. It has done away with the monsoon and winter sessions. It has reduced the sittings this year to just 40 days. The country is reeling under the impact of violence, inflation and a collapsing economy. But the government does not feel that there is any need for Parliament to discuss these and any number of burning issues, as it does not want to be held accountable for non governance. It does not care for either Parliament or for parliamentary democracy as under the Congress, the executive has been given the full mandate to be reckless.

India is a pluralistic state. It is any number of states and any number of peoples all rolled together under one nation, one flag and one Constitution. Its oxygen is freedom based on justice and equality. It will disintegrate and die if it is deprived of any of these, and is compelled to adopt a monolithic mantle that is totally unnatural to its existence. Fundamentalist groups insist on imposing their ideologies, their religions, their thoughts, their justice, their vision on people, even as they create the concept of the 'other' and try and unite their supporters to combat the opponents. If India has to survive and flourish as a healthy, breathing, vibrant democracy, secularism has to be protected and nurtured.

The nun from Kandhamar has shown us how. It is for us to learn the lesson.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

An Uneven Ado

An Uneven Ado
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

Muslims today are being looked upon with strange skepticism. And conditions are certainly getting worse for even those Muslims who are nowhere near the ideas of the fundamentalists. Without doubt, the situation is absolutely frustrating for Muslims. But how can we ever free the Muslims from the clutches of such suspicion? How do we enable them to lead a normal life, in India at least? Are Muslims and non-Muslims doing their share to restore this dignity? These are some of the fundamental questions that seek answers and are yet unheeded, or lost in discussion.

It has to be agreed that terrorists who are carrying on 'jihad' or 'holy war' are Muslims. They have but one objective—glory to Allah and to the Prophet Muhammad. Their ideologies are formed very much by the verses found in the Holy Koran. And because it is so, every time there is a blast, anywhere in the country, the administration first suspects those who belong to this faith. To tell them otherwise or prevent them from taking precautionary measures by way of mass demonstrations in public and the media will only strengthen the existing skepticism of non-Muslims.

Recently, when a ban was imposed on the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), its members are said to have formed yet another outfit named 'Indian Mujahideen'. They sent several mails claiming responsibility for the blasts across the country. When police began arresting the suspects, Muslim organizations, especially pressure groups, raised objections.

The media took up the 'cause' and began calling it 'police brutality'. However, not a word was said about those innocents killed in the blasts who had nothing whatsoever to do with the state of affairs. The Muslims' protests began to gain momentum. 'They are innocent', they asserted, time and again. But they have no proof about the 'innocence' of the arrested either. Muslim journalists and intellectuals began writing of the failure of the system.

Yes, it is possible that the police have made these arrests without any basis. But it should not be forgotten that it is equally possible that these Muslims can be terrorists having contributed, directly or indirectly, to the blasts. But just saying they aren't terrorists is of no use. If the police lack convincing evidence to prove them culprits, then the Muslim protestors are no better either as they have no evidence to the contrary. In the face of opposition, they just claim 'Muslims and Islam are under threat!' What nonsense!

There are several cases of atrocities being committed by people in uniform. But I have never found any logic in saying the entire system is corrupt. It's an insane idea. Even if the entire system were to be corrupt, then the sufferers would not just be Muslims but also Hindus, Christians, and in fact, every single citizen of this nation. It would no longer be an issue of a particular religion; it would the matter of an entire nation which would have to be addressed by everyone together. Such 'police atrocities' don't affect just Muslims, but people of all faiths. Given this, why individualize the whole issue? And what is the point in making this a 'reason' for their resorting to arms?

India is a secular nation. But its secularism isn't one that is imported from the west. India's secularism is where 'every religion is looked upon as equal'. Every religion has equal rights, or better put, is supposed to have equal rights. But to be true, it is certainly not so. Being a democratic nation where heads are simply counted and never weighed, vote bank politics is our way of life. Today, India is home to the world's second largest Muslim population, after Indonesia. And because their population is high, and ever increasing, their votes are simply invaluable to the politicos.

By pocketing Muslims with privileges, they can rule this country. It is no wonder that several governments in turn, have endowed several privileges upon Muslims. Indian Muslims have the special provision of following their Islamic law through the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). The Indian government gives Rs 10 billion in salaries for 'imams' in mosques and Rs 2 billion in Hajj subsidies. No other, country, not even Muslim nations, in the world endows such privileges on their Muslim citizens. This is contrary to the situation of Hindus, who are deprived of privileges, even after their temples being nationalized. Yet, there seem to be no sense of satisfaction among the Muslim masses. 'Yes, we are given privileges; but only on papers', they reprimand. But even if that is true isn't it possible for them to fight it in a court of law?

What justice are those Muslims who join Jihadi organizations, or sometimes Naxal movements, across the country, hoping to get? Justice? What kind of justice? The movements are supported by Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, and some Arab nations, who have a terrible record of human rights violations themselves. You just have to read their history and current state of affairs to know what they are. No one has the word 'liberty' truly engraved in their constitution and even if written, it's fairly invisible or never brought into force.

If Muslims think the judiciary is unfair then, there are legal means within the constitution to set it right. If there can be a way to bring arms into this country, then can't there be a way to restore the judicial system, should it have 'gone wrong', as contested?

Muslims are criticized by most of Indians today, and not just Hindus. 'Criticism' because they are feeling threatened and they aren't being convinced enough. It's not hate, but apprehension, and an uncertainty. They are also in no mood to assail Muslims. They want words that can prove their worst fears as 'untrue', and they aren't getting it. If Muslims are to talk about the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, Godhra, and all that, they should also not forget that there are non-Muslims who have lost their lives and loved ones. If Muslims have suffered then the non-Muslim populace of this land has suffered no less.

I wish to recall an instance from the pages of the history of India. When the freedom struggle was on and a great population was following Mahatma Gandhi, there was a section of youth, from all parts of society and religion, who were not content with him. They rebelled against his ideas and started a violent revolutionary movement. But they respected life and their violence was limited. It so happened that Gandhi had to take a stance as to whether he was with or against Bhagat Singh's death sentence. He was very clear in his stance and said 'I can't support violence in any form', and thus, never intervened even when the revolutionary and two of his comrades were hanged.

The Indian media is a great fan of Mahatma Gandhi. Whenever there is violence, the name of Gandhi pops up. 'The Mahatma died again', they will say. But when it comes to following his principles, why don't the media shun talking 'good' about the terrorists? Why can't the law take its course? Every culprit will claim his innocence, but that is not a credible reason to support a terrorist.

Muslims cannot complain about lack of support from the media. They cannot complain lack of privileges from the government, either. But they can complain of injustices whenever and wherever they might have occurred. They have that right. But by trying to justify terrorists, I fear they are antagonizing and even instigating non-Muslims. Thus, the protest undertaken by the Muslims of India is completely out of context and is working against them. And unless Muslims shun the violent members of their community; they will never be able to win the hearts of the masses of this land—ever. This IS an uneven ado.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Anti-Brahmanism: A Case Study to Indian Muslims

Anti-Brahmanism: A Case Study to Indian Muslims
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

The Great Uprising of 1857 unnerved the British, though for a while. Within two or three years of quelling it, and with great ferocity, they set to work putting together a version of the incident that would suit their ends. 'The uprising was confined to just a few pockets', they said, adding, 'it erupted as a result of local misunderstandings', and that 'there was no national sentiment behind it for the leaders themselves fought only for their feudal privileges—one because her son was not being recognized, another because his pension was being stopped, and so on.' This version was believed to be the true narration of the incident for so long that it even finds mention in Nehru's 'Discovery of India'!

The British did not stop at rewriting history books. They initiated a series of real politick measures. As Brahmins had provided the ideological leaven for the uprising, the campaign of calumny against them was redoubled. They started their propaganda against the Brahmins and an era of anti-Brahmanism began which lives on till date.

Though the British just gave a boost to such sentiments, they were not the beginners of the legacy. In the book 'Diwan-i-Salman', Khwaja Masud bin Sa'd bin Salman wrote of the Battle of Jalandhar (Punjab) thus: 'The narrative of any battle eclipses the stories of Rustam and Isfandiyar. By morning meal, not one soldier, not one Brahmin remained alive or free. Their heads were levelled to the ground with flaming fire. Thou have secured the victory to the country and to religion, for amongst the Hindus this achievement will be remembered till the day of resurrection.'

In Mughal times, Sheikh Ahmad (Mujaddid) of Sirhind wrote a letter to Mirza Darab excerpts of which read thus: 'Hindu Brahmans and Greek philosophers have spent a lot of time on religion. Since their efforts were not according to the Shariat of the prophet, they were all fools. They will remain devoid of salvation.'

According to the Tawarikh Firishta, Firoz Shah Bahmani (circa 1398-99), kidnapped 2,000 Brahman women, who were later freed by Raja Devaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire.
A country is never fully defeated as long as its martial and intellectual leaders exist. A self-conscious imperialism undertakes to reduce them as its first important task. Muslims coming to India found brave, armed, men and a Brahman class providing cultural and spiritual leadership. Dr. Ambedkar, quoting Muslim historians, says the first act of religious zeal by Mohammad bin Qasim, the first Arab invader, was circumcision of Brahmans. 'But, after they objected, he put to death all above the age of seventeen.'

Rev. C. Buchanan said Indians should be baptized because 'it attaches the governed to the governors.' They thought that Brahmans came in the way of their dream of a baptized India. They started blackening and discrediting them. A brochure called 'The Book of Wisdom' with 279 verses was widely circulated by missionaries under William Carey, touted as the father of the Indian press. It was one of the first he printed and is addressed to the 'mean, despicable Brahmans'. The brochure promises hell for heathens and salvation through Christ.

The British administration found Brahmans to be the only 'national' caste, held in much respect and capable of providing political leadership. They fomented anti-Brahman movements in different parts of the country which are still very powerful in today's secular India. Their fears were well-founded. Brahmins were the intellectual leaders of the Independence struggle. Thus anti-Brahmanism was a construct of the last two centuries. And though learnt under the colonial-missionary aegis, it became an important category of future social thinking and political action.

Brahmans began to be described as 'cunning, parasitic, exploiters and authors of the iniquitous caste system'. A lot of scholarship and intellectual labour was put into this thesis before it acquired its present momentum and currency. Anti-Brahmanism originated in, and still prospers in anti-Hindu circles. It is particularly welcome among Marxists, missionaries, Muslims, separatists, and casteists, of different hues. When they attack Brahmans, their target is unmistakably Hinduism.

Even in the freedom struggle, the contribution of Brahmans under the leadership of the Mahatma was enormous. A great percentage of his followers were Brahmans and hence, the country owes quiet a lot to them, and they certainly deserved special privileges. But when freedom was attained, their services were quickly forgotten. In the name of empowering the lower caste, their right to a fair chance in education, service, and so many other things, was snatched away.

There is no credible testimony to the fact that Brahmins ever opposed upliftment of the lower caste, yet the government, for the sake of 'strengthening the weak', in every sense, weakened the strong. Today, the situation is such that Brahmans have been practically deprived and made to suffer in the same way as the Dalits were 'made to suffer'.

There are 50 'sulabh shauchalayas' (public toilets) in Delhi; all of them are cleaned and looked after by Brahmans (this much-needed public institution was started by a Brahman). A far cry from the elitist image that Brahmans have! There are five to six Brahmans manning each toilet. They came to Delhi eight to ten years ago looking for a source of income, as they were a minority in most of their villages, where Dalits constitute the majority (60 to 65 per cent). In most villages in UP and Bihar, Dalits have a union which helps them secure jobs.

Did you know that you also stumble upon a number of Brahmans working as coolies at Delhi's railway stations? One of them, Kripa Shankar Sharma, says that though his daughter is doing her graduation in science, he is not sure if she will secure a job. 'Dalits often have five to six children, but they are confident of getting them placed easily and well,' he says. As a result, the Dalit population in villages is increasing. He adds, 'Dalits are provided with housing, even their pigs have spaces; whereas there is no provision for 'gaushalas' (cowsheds) for the cows of the Brahmans'.

This reverse discrimination is also found in bureaucracy and politics. Most of the intellectual Brahman Tamil class has emigrated outside Tamil Nadu. Only 5 seats from the 600 in the combined UP and Bihar assemblies are held by Brahmans—the rest are in the hands of the Yadavs. At least 400,000 Brahmans of the Kashmir valley, the once respected Kashmiri Pandits, now live as refugees in their own country, sometimes in refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi in appalling conditions. But who gives a damn about them? This is all simply because their vote bank is negligible.

At Tamil Nadu's Ranganathaswamy Temple, a priest's monthly salary is Rs 300 (as per the Census Department findings) and a daily allowance of one measure of rice. The government staff at the same temple receive Rs 2,500 and above every month. But these facts have not modified the priests' reputation as 'haves' and as 'exploiters'. The destitution of Hindu priests has moved none, not even the parties sympathetic to Hindus.

The Indian government gives Rs 1,000 crores (Rs 10 billion) in salaries for 'imams' in mosques and Rs 200 crores (Rs 2 billion) as Haj subsidies. But no such help is available to the Brahmans and the upper castes. As a result, not only the Brahmans, but also some of the other upper castes are suffering in silence today, seeing the minorities slowly taking control of their majority.

Even after so many years of persecution by invaders and their own countrymen, Brahmans still continue to suffer in silence and yet, contribute in a very positive way to this land. Not a day has ever been recorded in history when Brahmans, anywhere in this land, have resorted to arms.
There are incredible success stories attributed to them. Had there been no Brahmans, the IT sector of India, in which the media and government take pride, would not have even existed. There are so many industrialists, academicians, journalists, engineers, and doctors, who continue to contribute to this land by trying to forget their deprivation.

In light of this, I wish to ask my Muslim brethren as to what they are complaining about. Can they complain of more atrocities than the Brahmans? Everyone has had their share of bad luck. I am a Brahman, but I hold no prejudice against Muslims or Christians for they are my countrymen today. I always say 'we have issues to resolve' and not 'scores to settle'.

Yet, whenever I try to expose the negations and false concoctions of Muslim and Christian intellectuals I am easily branded a 'fanatic', 'fundamentalist' and what not.

The point I wish to wish to make here is simple. If Brahmans, after facing so much opposition from everyone including those of their own faith, can keep up their courage, write stories of passion, and contribute proactively, without brooding over their plight, then it is certainly possible for the Muslims to do so provided they come to terms with modern world dynamics and shun violence in all forms and types.

Note: Most of the statistical data is from Francois Gautier's column 'Are Brahmans the Dalits of today?'
By Seema Mustafa

China is justifiably proud of its Olympics. Souvenirs are still available at select shops. T-shirts with the logo can be bought in plenty. Flower decorations dotting the capital at traffic junctions remain, a fading testimony to the success. The mascots can still be seen at Tianeman square, and literature of the Games is freely available. And what is of course, a major achievement more people are speaking English, at the airport and the shops than before the games. The Chinese government had launched a major “teach English” offensive before the games that has clearly paid dividends, and although the numbers are still few, it is a major improvement. In fact, even sign posts can be found in English. But perhaps the most interesting was when we struggled to order a chicken dish at a tiny restaurant in the suburbs of Beijing, and even drew a rooster with an egg (!) in our desperation. The waitress who could not understand the spoken word suddenly brightened up and wrote down “chicken” although she could not pronounce the word. Rather happy a colleague drew the picture of a pig and although it looked more like a rat with a round nose she understood again and wrote “pork” with new found confidence.

The Chinese are friendly, and extremely foreigner friendly. There is not a single glance, or an odd look, and attempts at communication---like asking for directions or something---is usually answered with a big smile and a gesture indicating “I don’t know English.” Interestingly, Chinese tourism is big and at the Forbidden City, for instance, one can only see hordes of local people with very few foreigners. It reminds one of the Bengalis here, who do not hesitate to get into buses and travel to any part of India that strikes their fancy, regardless of the distance, the language or for that matter the cuisine. A young guide has a novel approach. Smilingly she introduces herself to us as a “student of art.” We stop to talk. She then says that her school has put up an art exhibition at one of the stalls outside the Forbidden City, where we happened to be standing, and she has a work in it. And what have you painted? She goes into some details, and its only then one realizes that she is a guide and not a student. But by then we are inside the exhibition room, and she probably has pocketed her commission for bringing in visitors.

Shopping in Beijing is a dream for those who can rarely venture into designer stores in other parts of the world, including at home. Name the brand it is yours for the asking, and at a price that will make the Versace’s and the Armani’s of the world cringe. Pretty little women with calculators held firmly in hand surround you the moment you are brave enough to enter their space at a typical Chinese mall. A Burberry jacked? Of course and they type anything from 4000 RBM upwards on their calculator. Forewarned, you punch 50. They look at each other, chatter ferociously, look at you, gesture wildly and then say “okay last price” (that is a standard statement they all know) and type 3500. The negotiation is intense and prolonged, as they do not let you leave the shop until the bargaining is complete. There is no way you can get out, as they even hold you physically if the need so arises. Finally, the bargain is struck. The jacket priced at 4500 is now yours for 250 RBM---that is from 670 odd US dollars it is now 35 odd US dollars!

The Chinese government is not particularly friendly, when it comes to hosting left wing activists in the city. APEF, a conglomeration of intellectuals and activists from Europe and Asia decided to hold their annual conference at Beijing which is hosting ASEM (Asia Europe meeting). Expecting a warm welcome, they found that this was not so, and that the Chinese government was not particularly happy to have them in the city lest they make matters difficult at ASEM. So the local Chinese NGOs who were part of the Organising Committee fixed up the accommodation a good hour away from main Beijing; they re-organised the schedule without consulting the others; and what made the participants furious put them through stringent security checks. “Never again” was the consensus with China actually throwing away a great opportunity to win over the support of major peoples organizations across the world.

The Indian delegation was surprised to find two odd invitees from New Delhi in their midst---from the BJP and the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. Both were like a duck out of water but did attend some of the sessions and make suggestions that did not merge with the tone and tenor of the discussions. The BJP member of course, did not hesitate to use one session to remind all present of his nationalist and patriotic credentials. Unfortunately he did so in the usual manner, by accusing another participant of not being patriotic enough until he was asked by the moderator to take his seat. After that he was rarely seen at the sessions, only at meals, as he had fulfilled his part of the agenda. Both had been invited by the NGOs linked to the Chinese government that is clear that it will not constrict its relations, in India or the world, to just the Left movements.

One had to travel all the way to Beijing to hear the ultimate conspiracy theory currently circulating in Pakistan. This is how it goes: McCain wins the US Presidential elections. He dies soon after, Sarah Palin becomes the US President. She marries Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari (remember his “you are beautiful” words). She dies in mysterious circumstances. Bilawal, Zardari’s son, changes his name to Bilawal Zardari Bhutto Palin. Zardari becomes the President of the US.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ban the Bajrang Dal

Ban the Bajrang Dal
By Susenjit Guha

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's past association with Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger may have contributed to his verbal rock n' roll. First he brusquely dismissed members of the Bajrang Dal as extremists during an interview to NDTV only to correct moments later that they were fundamentalists, not extremists.

M K Narayan, the National Security Adviser thought a ban was not necessary on this outfit but better policing was required instead. A ban on the Dal was not sustainable in the courts of law.

Any nationalistic organization--- even if it resorts to violence and terrorises a particular Indian community---gets temporary immunity under 'fundamentalism' and evades being branded an extremist. Only a terrorist can be an extremist and he is naturally anti-national. Logically deduced, an extremist is a terrorist. And who is a terrorist? Certainly not a Hindu or any organization belonging to them, but others read non-Hindus.

Now what is going on? Is terrorism up for re-definition in India?

Does it mean a non-Hindu Indian has to pass the nationalism test at every step? A Hindu terrorist or extremist can ply his trade in Sri Lanka, but not in India. In India, he is part of the majority community and if he chooses to terrorise any minority community, he is absolved of any extremist or terrorist trait. He can only be a fundamentalist on that score.

According the Bajrang Dal's website:

"The Bajrang Dal is not against any religion. It acknowledges respecting the faith of other people, but expects and asserts for a similar respect of the Hindu Sentiments. Being Hindu, the Bajrang Dal believes in 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."

It is clear they are not what they claim to be.

Human Rights Watch blamed them for the pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 where nearly 2000 Muslims lost their lives.Frontline reported in 2004 how even after 2 years of the Gujarat riots, Bajrangis were resorting to organized intolerance in towns and villages of Gujarat, proudly proclaiming that they were made Muslim free.' It led to ghetto-isation of a community.

Bajrang Dal activists were earlier caught making crude bombs in 2006 and also this year to avenge the bomb blasts that had taken place.

Recently their attention focused on the Christian community in Karnataka. Prayer halls and churches were vandalized while the police beat up protesting Christian men and women--- some of whom wondered if the law enforcement agencies doubted their Indian nationality. Recent violence against Christians in Orissa was alleged to have been perpetrated by the Bajrang Dal activists. It seems the UPA government is divided over the exact definition of Bajrangis and at odds to club them with terrorists who commit crimes against fellow Indians in the name of Islam.
Our Prime Minister, busy steering a fleet of Greyhound buses all by himself to the White House since India missed the bus several times earlier, went into action after concerns were voiced in Europe during the last leg of his heady victory lap.

We cannot have two sets of rules for terror attacks. Failing to club all terror attacks under acts of terrorism and not treating terrorists equally under the eyes of the law will only lead to a polarisation of communities. India cannot afford to allow lumpen elements to masquerade as nationalists and attack the very essence of our Constitution.

There are civil ways of protesting against any slur on any religious group or symbol which the Bajrangis alleged to have happened.

When Prof. Paul Brass of the University of Washington compared the outfit with Nazi storm-troopers, he wasn't far from the truth. They too professed extreme nationalism while cleansing a fellow German community.

If history books are still considered worth dusting up and taking lessons from, all Indian political parties should rise above their differences and come down strongly on the Bajrang Dal.
And Mr.Patnaik's knowledge of history---he holds a post-graduate degree---is deep enough to spot extremist acts and narrow the difference between what he calls fundamentalism and extremism when talking about the Bajrang Dal.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Understanding and Reviving the Muslim Psyche

Understanding and Reviving the Muslim Psyche
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

Orthodoxy and fanaticism is found in every religious group, not just Islam. But in Hindu and Christian societies, there emerged a class of reformers who rejected such dogmas outright. There was, of course, a reason for this. Their religions were subjected to assaults and molestation as both had to face Islamic aggression. The defeat they suffered, stimulated these societies to reform themselves. Muslim society is unfortunate in this regard. It has never been subjected to the traumatic experiences of an assault which would have stimulated it to reform itself.

By attacks, I am not referring merely to political aggression in a limited sense; even Muslims have been subjected to such attacks. Despite Muslims being enslaved at times, their religion has never been threatened. On the other hand, whenever they defeated Christians and Hindus, they did not stop at just enslaving them. Followers of other faiths thus realized that if Muslims enslaved them, their religion was in danger. This is what compelled these societies to think of their own religion in a radically new manner.

In India, Hindus have often defeated Muslims and ruled over them. But they were never forced to embrace Hinduism. Even Shivaji, who could have successfully done so, did not attempt it. When some Christians defeated Muslims, they had already given up the idea of forcible conversion and Christian society was already entering the modern age. Before modernization, even Christians have resorted to forcible conversions.

Aurangzeb destroyed the temple of Vishweshwara at Benares (aka Varanasi), and built a mosque at the birthplace of Lord Krishna in Mathura. But the Western conquerors of Mecca and Medina did not inflict any such changes on the conquered. The Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem remained intact and so did the Muslim faith. Muslims were fortunate to have full religious freedom when being ruled by people of other faiths. In India, a King like Shivaji pushed back aggressors, yet instituted grants for the preservation of Pirs (spiritual Mullah) and Dargahs (sacred graves).

But history has taken absurd twists and turns, leaving the Muslim mind still medieval in its make-up. It has never shocked them into awareness of modernity. Indeed, one is inclined to blame history more than the Muslims themselves, for the phenomenon. In continuation, it appears that all so-called secular political parties in India have a consensus on retaining Indian Muslims in their medieval state.

The Congress Party has, in fact, shown that it is opposed to their modernization and reasons for this policy can be found in the nature of Muslim leadership within the party.
This leadership mostly consists of the orthodox and traditionalist Ulema. They exert a powerful influence on the senior leadership within the Congress. Hence it is not surprising that our political and administrative leadership, cannot modernize the Muslim community. Islam in India is perhaps still in its crudest form and that is why pan-Islamic movements exist in our country. This is also the reason why everytime the Prophet is criticized, Muslims here start movements and agitations, often unparalleled in most of the Isamic world. These Muslims still pressurize the government to adopt a policy favorable to the Arabs and against the Jews of Israel.

The mindsets of Muslims, globally, seem to have an absence of logic. For instance, take the battle of 'Badr'. This was the first battle to be fought by Muslims and the Prophet emerged victorious despite his army being badly outnumbered. His army consisted of 310 'faithful' Muslims. The Prophet's antagonists were the army of the Quraish tribe of Mecca numbering more than a thousand. His victory is a historical fact and hence, this battle is considered a memorable turning point in the history of Islam and as per Muslims, 'in the history of the whole world'! The victory can be attributed to numerous reasons, but the Muslim mind is still under the spell of this historical victory.

When discussing defeats and victories in battles, we resort to the scientific method. For instance, in the clash between Babar and Rana Sangha or Abdally and the Marathas.A scientific explanation of Babar's victory would be based on the fact that he had weapons superior to those used by his adversary. Similarly, in the battle fought between Abdally and the Marathas at Panipat, it would be a certain battle-formation at Panipat that was the deciding factor.

All three major battles fought at Panipat, have a single pattern—an advantageous position on the battlefield. There was a hill formation on the Panipat plain which had helped any army that occupied it to win the battle. A military expert has commented that the Marathas made a fatal mistake in occupying a disadvantageous position on the battlefield. This would be the scientific explanation.

However, the fanatic and orthodox Muslim mind is averse to accepting scientific explanations. It sees in every Islamic victory a repetition of the battle of Badr. The reason for Abdally's win is attributed to his being a Muslim. The cause of the Marathas defeat is said to be because they were Kafirs. How could a handful of Muslims win? The answer is that they were faithful. Why then did the Arabs suffer a humiliating and crushing defeat at the hands of the Israelis? The answer, this time, is that Arab leaders were not faithful Muslims! Nasser led the Arabs.

What exactly do these Muslims mean when they criticize Nasser for lack of faith in Islam? The answer, again, is obvious. Nasser is unfaithful because he refuses to impose the rule of the Shariat in Egypt. How could a handful of Muslims rule India for a thousand years? It is simple—they were possessed by tremendous religious zeal. How can Muslims regain their lost power in the world? To this the answer is again very obvious: Muslims across the world have to be made more devout.

Fanatics believe Islam to be the newest and therefore, the most perfect religion. They regard Muhammad as the last and final prophet. Hence, they believe that there cannot be any new religion after the advent of Islam. They believe that Islam does not need any modification. These Islamic dogmas do not suffer from the restrictions admitted by other religions. When Muslims believe Islam to be perfect and immutable, their faith does not extend to a purely theological domain. Islam has not merely given a theology; it has also given its followers a complete social and political system. Islam laid down the principles on which the relations between Muslims and infidels are based. An average Muslim who is orthodox in his view, fully subscribes to all these dogmas. Some of the Muslims like Maulana Moududi and Maulana Abdul Hassan Nadvi have even discovered an Islamic economic system in addition to these!

However, there were a few people like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who urged Muslims to accept modern Western education. But there were repercussions. The Ulema of Deoband issued a fatwa calling him a kafir. Muslims remained backward because they were religion-bound revivalists who refused to modernize themselves. In this scenario, Sir Syed was a great visionary who heralded the Indian Muslim renaissance. It was due to his effort that the rigidly religious mind of Indian Muslims began to show some signs of thawing.

Educated Muslims began to redefine life and gave up the grand dream of converting India to Islam. A process of transformation had begun. This process should have brought Muslims close to Hindus and broadened their view of man and society. A view, which would have looked upon Hindus and Muslims as equals.

This process, however, was ironically reversed because modern Indian Muslims proved unequal to the task. Their modernity proved limited and they lacked the broad vision that could have ensured the complete success of the Aligarh renaissance. Sir Syed himself succumbed to the egoistical conception that Muslims were the conquerors of India. It was he who later became the father of separatist Muslim nationalism, and not Jinnah as it is commonly thought. Jinnah is only a later version of Sir Syed—revised and enlarged.

If we want more and more secular-minded Muslims in the near future, we must encourage and support those Muslims who are moving in that direction. For as long as Muslims remain monolithic in their thinking, their communalism will only increase. If they divide into two camps—the modern liberals and the orthodox puritans—their communalism would be much weakened.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Malegaon Bomb Blast: The Smell of Blood is Still in My Head

Malegaon Bomb Blast: The Smell of Blood is Still in My Head
By Mubasshir Mustaq

The deadly bomb blast which ripped apart bodies of the believers on September 29 has left a deep scar on the psyche of the town. Without losing any time, I was at Bhikku chowk, the epicentre of the blast, which resembled more like a battlefield than an ordinary chowk in a Muslim neighbourhood. The members of leaderless Muslim community were busy helping the injured in their own individual way. A few emotional Muslims protested against the police claim that it was a cylinder blast. It hurts me deeply that a stone-pelting incident can alter the destiny of my community. Clashes between Muslims and Police followed. Police first-lathi-charged and then opened fire. People fell like a pack of cards.

From Bhikku chowk I rushed towards Noor hospital like a madman searching for sanity. Police bullets seem to have an ingrained bias against Muslims. Bullets chase Muslims till death. As I entered the hospital to inquire about the injured, I could hear the gunshots being fired outside (in Mushawerat chowk). With each shot, I trembled with rage and fear. Each shot increased my heartbeats. The palpitation was so seismic that I feared that my heart would jump out and leave me dead. On one hand Dr. Saeed Faizee, Dr. Sohail and Dr. Faisal continuously worked to restore the faith of Muslim community, outside the naked dance of official bias was at play. Where was the humanity of the people?

The scene at Faran hospital - where the majority of the injured (58) were brought - was chaotic. Curios onlookers and some family members of the injured were caught in the melee outside the Faran hospital. As I entered the hospital the smell of fresh blood became unbearable. It is still in my head. The injured were being treated by Dr. Saeed Farani and his dedicated team of doctors. The entire hospital was in collective mourning. The cry of a toddler will haunt me for the rest of my life. It could have been my nephew or anybody else's. A bared burnt back of a bearded old man almost brought me to the brink of cry. But then the call of my metier restrained me. I made sure that tears didn't spill out of my eyes. In the operation theatre, I saw an open surgery being performed on one of the injured. The ruptured veins of his left foot were a terrible sight to behold. I could stop there while beholding the sanguine scene or gently pass out. The sight of the three dead bodies neatly lined one after another froze my soul. I felt as if I was in the awesome presence of death. As I clicked their pictures, a thought crossed my mind: Is it fair for a journalist to take pictures of the victims mowed down by flying balls, nails and bullets? It was a call of the conscience. In the spilt of a second, I decided to go ahead. I thought I was Muslim as well as a journalist. The job of a journalist is not to write but to communicate. The Muslim in me thought that I must communicate to the world that my own community has been hit in its own backyard. Not once, but twice.

When the guns fell silent, I returned to Bhikku chowk at 3am. Uninformed media persons were orchestrating the official line that the bomb blast site is below the building where Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) once had its office. But nobody bothered to say that the bomb blast site is rather in front of a Police chowky as well. These are matters of perception.

Why was Bhikku chowk chosen for the blast site? Bhikku chowk represents a strong Muslim identity where Muslims from all diverse sects and walks of life gather for a cup of tea or socializing after traweeh prayers in Ramadan. The attack was on Muslim identity. Why can't the security agencies accept that there is in essence a turf-war going on between communalists of different faiths in the form of bomb blasts? It is unfortunate that in this war Police often seem to be on the side of the majority community. It is a bitter truth albeit uncomfortable.

Next day, home minister RR Patil uttered the usual platitude of repeated bombings of recent past. "It was an attack on national integration." I am sorry, Mr. Patil. Bhikku chowk is not the place for bridging the gulf that has divided two communities. It is a traditional Muslim ghetto.
The attack was on Malegaon's Muslim identity and not on national integration. There were eyebrows raised when I bluntly asked him 'How many people have died in the police firing.' He paused for a moment; Nikhil Gupta, Nasik SP, bent and whispered something. "Nobody has died in the police firing. Police had fired 58 rounds in the air so no one was injured," Patil claimed.

This goes against the public perception and a doctor's claim in Malegaon. According to Dr. Saeed Farani at least 3 persons have been injured in the police firing. The actual figure is obviously higher but nobody is willing to say because the town is reeling under fear.

Each Muslim mother in Malegaon is praying lest her son becomes a "suspect."

Things will never be the same in this forsaken corner of Maharashtra but this much is certain: Indian Muslims will not allow India to become another Pakistan.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Indian Muslims v/s Muslims of India

Indian Muslims v/s Muslims of India
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

Once in the US, it so happened that a lady was being chased by a dog. She ran until the dog was stopped and made to run for its life by a brave young man. Looking in awe, among the spectators, was a young journalist. 'You are a brave guy. You must be featured in the newspaper. 'Brave young American saves lady from dog', is the headline I am planning on. Hearing this, the lad said 'Sorry, but I am not an American.' 'Oh is it?', Where are you from?' asked the journo. 'I am from the Middle East,' replied the man. 'Oh… so, are you a Muslim?' 'Yes, very much', he admitted. 'Oh, nice to see you. Please read tomorrow's edition of my newspaper', said the journo handing over his card. The next day, however, the young man was flabbergasted to see the headline which read, 'A terrorist terrorizes a dog!'

That was a joke, of course. But the way the world is looking at Muslims today is not much different from the perspective of the imaginative journalist in the joke. 'Not all Muslims are terrorists,' admit supporters of Islam. This is countered by its critics who say 'But most, if not all, of the terrorists are Muslims!'

Islam is at the height of unpopularity today. Muslims are regarded with great skepticism and the credibility of Islam seems to be at stake. Recently, my distinguished friend M J Akbar answered this with a lot of vitality in his article, 'Is credibility of Islam at stake'? But not many were moved by it.

The skepticism Islam is encountering globally, is a strange phenomenon. To rebuild the credibility of the religion it is important that the terrorists—call them 'Islamists', 'Islamic terrorist', or just a 'terrorist'—stop making use of Islam as a pillar of their propaganda. Until and unless this subsides, the credibility of Islam, I fear, would certainly be at stake. And no justification of Islam would truly help. All would certainly be seen by its critics as'propaganda'.
Islam is certainly 'a religion of peace'. It has in it a great 'passion' for peace. But that peace is not to be equalized with conventional peace which others, mostly non-Muslims or 'kafirs', understand. Like Christianity, Islam is a religion which talks of exclusivity. The greatest gift of being a Muslim, or rather converting to it, is the prospect of 'heaven'— a heaven which is full of 'virgin girls and boys' and where there is a 'river of milk' and all that which is never found in Arabia.

Islam's core maxim is simple. In Arabic it reads 'Lailaha Illalah, Mahamdurasullah', which means 'No God but Allah, and no Prophet but Mohammad'. This clearly states that Islam recognizes no other religion and shuns all gods and prophets. It is stated very clearly in Islam that though Moses and Jesus were also among the prophets, they were intended for a different time and now only Mohammad is to be follow and only Allah deserves worship.

Of recent, the Muslims in India have started justifying acts of violence by terrorists as 'a result of their frustration and alienation'. They say Muslims have been looked down upon; they have been deprived economically. Special privileges have been demanded for which is being justified by using the Justice Sachar Committee report. While the Sachar report explains the state of Muslims, it totally fails in stating the reasons behind this. Muslims themselves are responsible for their situation, as it is they who pursue religious education instead of the conventional education system.

I am a Brahmin. But to be more specific I am a Gowda Saraswat Brahmin (GSB). From time immemorial, our people have been deprived and have faced constant struggle. History says that our ancestors lived on the banks of the river Saraswati, and when the river dried up we moved to various parts of the country. First the Mughals, and later the Portuguese, persecuted us. A lot of our numbers were converted first to Islam and then to Christianity, forcefully.

Today, we have a modest population. Our composite population in this country would not be more than six lakh. We form a faction of the population, but we have had no special privileges. Starting from the 1950s, we were deprived of education and many were forced to change their surnames because they were denied education.

In the name of providing special privileges to the lower classes, we were deprived. Given this, we had every right to resort to arms and fight and kill people of the lower castes. But that we didn't do it is a historical fact. The contribution of my community is vibrantly visible. Three distinguished banks of this country were founded by GSBs. First private medical college was founded by Dr. TMA Pai was himself as GSB.

A great many of those who built India's IT industry are fellow GSBs. Without any privileges, whatsoever, we found our way. As a community, we contributed so much and so well to the economy of this country and that is something none can negate.

But how did the GSBs achieve so much and contribute even more? Why didn't they resort to arms, malign the government, and resort to anti-government actions? The reason is simple—we believed in ourselves. We know very well that India is our nation. We love this land and are passionate enough to contribute to its greatness. Instead of asking for opportunities, we created them. Not only GSBs; there are several other communities who have made similar contributions under identical conditions.

I am baffled when I read Muslim writers who talk of deprivation. If they were deprived then how is it that India had Muslims as Prime Ministers and Presidents? Who is stopping them? No one—that's for sure.

The only thing that is keeping Muslims from accomplishments is their mindset. If not all, a majority of Muslims of this country believe that 'they were the rulers of this land'. They still seek to identify themselves with the Mughals. Until that mindset is remedied, and until they recognize themselves not as Muslims but as Indians first, their deprivation will continue against all odds. Even no matter of appeasements, or reservations, will work.

I categorize Muslims of this country into two. The first, are the Indian Muslims—the people who think themselves as Indians first and Muslims later. The second category is the Muslims of India—Muslims who think of themselves as Muslims first and last. Muslims of India are the real problem that needs to be handled properly.

Indian Muslims have contributed lot to this land. Dr. Zakir Hussain and Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam are distinguished personalities who belong to this category. All Hindus, including those in the RSS, and Bajarang Dal, appreciate and honor them. The Muslims of India, however, still look at the fanatic seminaries of 'Darul-Uloom' and the 'Wahhabi' school of thought, for their greatness. You can never convince the Muslims of India until they shed their 'rulers-of-India' mindset and come to terms with the modern world and contribute proactively to THEIR nation's progress.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Deep Love - Deep Impact!

Deep Love - Deep Impact!
By Seema Mustafa

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared his "deep love" for US President George W.Bush. He did prefix this with India but considering the fact that he himself is not an elected Prime Minister, and represents a party with a decided minority in Parliament, he is really not entitled to speak for the people of the country. And he knows as well as we, that he was actually proclaiming his "deep love" for Bush and said so without prepared text, and with a passion that earned some comment even in the normally passive Indian media.

Unfortunately, the two could not sign the 123 agreement and have had to leave it to their juniors, Condoleeza Rice and Pranab Mukherjee to complete their formalities. Even this came under a shadow of doubt, as New Delhi wanted Bush to sign the legislation before the deal was concluded in the Indian capital. At the time of writing the mess was still being handled by both sides, with uncertainty written into Rice's visit and of course, insistence that India do her end of it without waiting for the US President to sign the dotted lines. The Left and others staged black flag demonstrations protesting the visit, and the surrender of Indian sovereignty to Washington's will.

Prime Minister Singh has set a record of sorts, and while there is little he can claim during his five years of governance, he can at least go down in history as a one issue leader. He ensured that the Prime Ministers Office did not waste much time in tackling other issues of import, and devoted itself to pursuing the nuclear deal. To a point where even the National Security Advisor M.K.Narayanan forgot his real duties, and pursued the deal with the zeal of the new convert.

Precious man hours were spent in handling the propaganda through meticulous half truths and outright lies, as for the first time a Parliament session was hijacked by a handful of politicians and bureaucrats. The monsoon session has not been held and Parliament will now meet for just one session. The outcry from political parties was not heeded, and the government used its clout to further erode democracy and its institutions.

The US House of Representatives and the US Senate have both attached what should have been unacceptable conditions to the nuclear bill. It has been made crystal clear that the 123 agreement is subject to the provisions of the Hyde Act and the Atomic Energy Act and does not supersede either. Now this was stated over and over again by the Congressmen, reiterated by Bush in his Presidential determination, and included again in the Bills cleared by the House and the Senate. But even so it is not being acknowledged by the Indian government with the Prime Minister and his team now waiting for further 'clarifications' from President Bush. As if the lame duck President can say otherwise, and counter the US Congress for India's benefit. The Bill as passed by the House says repeatedly that "nothing in the agreement shall be construed to supersede the legal requirements of the Henry J.Hyde Act…."and it should be clear now to even this Prime Minister that there is little Bush can do to supersede this. Mutual love notwithstanding.

It is clear even to those accompanying the Prime Minister to the US (judging from the absence of loud cheers) that the US Congress has made it clear that it expects the administration not just to discourage, but to actually "prevent" the Nuclear Suppliers Group from supplying nuclear fuel to India in case it violates the provisions of the agreement and carries out a nuclear test. In other words, India can ignore everything and test but it will face not just back breaking sanctions but will also find itself without a nuclear program as the US and the NSG will stop the fuel supply, take back the reactors, and close nuclear cooperation altogether.

The US Congress has also made it clear that India, despite its Prime Ministers claims, has not joined the nuclear weapon states. And as Bush said in his determination is still a non nuclear weapon state and will, thus, not benefit from the transfer of enrichment technology with a question mark placed over permissions for reprocessing imported fuel. In fact the House of Representatives Bill, as senior scientist P.K.Iyengar has pointed out, contains a "disturbing clause" where under Section 204 "the President has to certify that the US will work with NSG countries to 'agree to further restrict the transfers of equipment and technology related to the enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of spent fuel." And to counter the propaganda of the Indians, the Bill makes it even more clear that any future proposal for reprocessing needs explicit approval from the Congress which also retains the right to refuse. So much then for the 123 agreement.

India will most certainly not be sitting on the nuclear high table, and all the assurances given by Singh and his team of servile bureaucrats have been outright lies. The critics of the nuclear deal that includes the nuclear scientists, the Left parties, the BJP, and a small section of the media has said all this over and over again before. But each time the PMO with some of the Congress and UPA ministers launched a scathing attack against those seeking to preserve India's sovereignty and right to decision making. Dr Iyengar again points out, as he has along with others so many times before, "the reality is that the nuclear deal will not bring us as equals to the nuclear table. It will only serve to tighten the non proliferation regime around us, make us dependent on the nuclear cartel for fuel and completely cripple our strategic programme."

Even now the UPA government appears to be in a tearing hurry. Singh wants the deal to be signed before Parliament meets as the flak might re-open the agreement yet again, from the Indian end. He had assured Parliament that he would return to it after the NSG clearance and before signing the nuclear deal with the US, but clearly that is not a promise he intends to keep.

The rush now is for Rice to somehow steamroll Mukherjee and the rest into signing the deal before Bush does his end of it, so that the will of the people can be circumvented and Parliament confronted with a done deal. Singh does not mind the flak and can sit through the worst time in the House with a dead pan position, for in his mind he is accountable to no one in India, and has long since decided his mentor is in Washington.

And if the pliant media is looking for more evidence of this, it can be found in his new found interest in the violence against Christians. This has been going on for six weeks in Orissa where the Christians have been killed and made refugees in their own land. There was no response from the centre, but now after his travels abroad Singh is credited with concern about the plight of the Christian minority. And for once he is frank. This is because the governments in the US and Europe raised the issue with him, and he found it "embarrassing" enough to order some action at home. Perhaps, the wag at the Press Club was right. "if they sell us out at this speed then perhaps the summer capital for the Indian government should shift to Washington. As it is most of them are there during that time."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mocking Deal

Mocking Deal
By Seema Mustafa

It is perhaps in the fitness of things, that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh celebrates his birthday in the United States. This time, as officials informed accompanying scribes in New York, it was double celebration time, as the Prime Minister had got full assurance from US President George W.Bush that the nuclear deal would be sealed and ready for signing when Minister of external affairs Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice meet here in New Delhi on October 3-4.

Singh has been receiving glowing tributes from the NRI community in the US that has developed a vested interest in getting the deal through. A strategic alliance with India will further their business interests, and it is small wonder then that Singh and his team are being wined and dined as heroes. He has also given his more than little bit back, despite being a man given to few words, and reticent in appearance. In dramatics rarely seen when he meets Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who he recognizes as his leader, Singh rushed to embrace Bush and tell him that he is "deeply loved" by India. He did not define what "India" meant for him, and one can only hope that he had not been as presumptuous as to speak for all her citizens. And that when he said "India" he basically meant the Congress party, sections of the corporate media, and of course his little team that has been working hard to tie India into strategic knots.

The accompanying journalists have been hammering out reports of the great relationship, and the great victory of Singh and his men in getting the deal through. No one has focused on the additional clauses that the Senate and the House of Representatives have added, making a mockery of the 123 agreement, and in effect strengthening even the stringent stipulations of the Hyde Act. India cannot test, and the US under the new amendments will now work to ensure that in case it tests and the deal is scrapped it will "prevent" other nuclear suppliers group members from continuing their nuclear cooperation with India. Reprocessing rights, of course, no longer exist, and transfer of sensitive technology will remain a dream.

The point is that if a government is prepared to sink its self interest and compromise its sovereignty, there is no deal in the world that will not go through. Agreements stall because nations stand up for their rights, and refuse the other to brow beat them into accepting conditions that are at best demeaning and humiliating. It is a tragedy that at this point, the Manmohan Singh government has not done the country proud, and has compromised her strategic interests in a manner that is detrimental to national interest.

It is strange, how even the Presidential determination that spelt out the real US nuclear policy viz a viz India did not deter Prime Minister Singh. And his bureaucrats, after the initial hesitation, bounced back insisting that this was applicable only to the US and not to India. What do they mean by that? Do they mean that if India decides to go in for a nuclear test, it will not pay any price when the US President and the US Congress decide to scrap the nuclear agreement? In that Washington will roll back the cooperation, while New Delhi will continue insisting that the deal is on and nothing has happened. And that the decision of the US Congress does not apply because we are bound only by the 123 agreement? But they can get away with even these surprisingly absurd assertions because the media has stopped asking questions a long time ago, and is pursuing the nuclear deal with the same determination as Singh and his government.

Parliament has not been allowed to meet, and for the first time in its history, a government has unilaterally scrapped the monsoon session altogether. By the time it is convened, that is later in October, the nuclear deal will be sealed, signed and delivered and any debate or protest will be totally meaningless. India is currently facing tremendous challenges but the Prime Minister is embracing Bush, and there is no leadership here to even fathom the problems. Inflation is spiraling out of control, unrest is growing by the day, the communal forces are on the ascendant but the government under Singh is preoccupied only with the nuclear deal and the US. Only Singh, with his adulation for Bush rarely concealed, could hug the US President and speak of deep love (that he unfortunately rested at India's door). For the Americans Bush is history, and at best a target for the comedians on television. For West Asia he is evil, a President who has destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan and is now finishing Pakistan. For the rest of the world he is at best passé, a man no one really wants to do business with.

Prime Minister Singh does not give the impression of a leader weighed down by domestic troubles. Like the Pakistan President Asif Zardari, Singh too was busy paying compliments to those who are at the receiving end of the American stick. Singh to Bush, and Zardari to Palin. But at least in the last case, Palin might be the US future. Bush is definitely its past. Unfortunately the troubles in India will not have disappeared, and Singh will return to the chaos that he left behind. Parliament will take some of the glow off his face, and the forthcoming Assembly elections might just leave a pallor that will increase as the general elections draw near.

Prime Ministers and governments are expected to be accountable to Parliament and the will of the people. The Constitution did not envisage a situation where the executive would become totally reckless, and override the checks and balances woven into this parliamentary democracy. It has, thus, left it to the people of India to decide the course they want their country to take every five years, and the millions whose condition has worsened in recent years are now waiting to cast their ballot.