Saturday, October 31, 2015

Whose India Is It? by Gautam Adhikari (edit Pg TOI) October 31st 2015

Today’s intolerant hordes would do well to read the Constitution, plus Vivekananda
Clouds are gathering over the idea of India, threatening to shut out the sun of liberal democracy. The light of liberalism opens minds. It shines on debate and diversity. It radiates tolerance. That is how the founding fathers of the nation saw it. So, they wanted India to be liberal and tolerant.
They wrote a Constitution proclaiming ‘liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship’ as a founding principle of this republic. Today, there’s a growing anxiety in the air, an anxiety about the life of that principle. People in India, as well as in other parts of the world, have begun to wonder: Is India tolerant? Is it safe to live or travel in those swathes of the country where the beast of intolerance prowls? Is it safe to dine in public if you eat meat and fish?
Is it a safe home for a Christian or a Muslim or a Buddhist or an atheist or even a Hindu of any shade different from the one declared as exclusively authentic by the marauding mobs of Hindutva? Will it turn into a Pakistan, where if you don’t surrender to an exclusive brand of Islam as defined by the radicals, being a Muslim by faith is no longer enough to ensure safety? Ask a Shia or an Ahmadiyya or a liberal. Jinnah himself won’t qualify to be Islamic in today’s Pakistan.
Just as Gandhi and Tagore and, yes, even Vivekananda would blink in disbelief at the kind of India demanded by today’s intolerant hordes. It won’t be possible to enter into a detailed discussion in this space but here are two thoughts for consideration: One, India is not a Hindu nation, not even a ‘Hindu-majority’ country in constitutional terms. Two, Hinduism can be seen as a way of life or a portmanteau term to describe a civilisation. It’s not a single-faith dogma.
On Point One, the framers of the secular Constitution were careful to avoid any reference to Hinduism as a requirement for citizenship. Article 25 assures citizens ‘freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion’, which means any religion. Sub-clause 2(b) mentions Hindu religious institutions only in the context of the state’s ability to provide ‘for social welfare and reform’ and explains ‘Hindus’ here to mean also Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists.
Clearly, the founding fathers were determined to ensure that India would not be a Pakistan, which had been created solely as a home for Muslims. India would be a democratic, secular entity in which people of any faith or no faith would be able to pursue their preferred way of life or religion. Unless there is any highly unlikely move to throw out the Constitution and rewrite its basic tenets, it would remain totally unconstitutional to call India a Hindu nation.
Although the census might say that India contains a majority of persons who describe themselves as Hindu, it remains a constitutionally secular republic which does not officially recognise any religious identity as a defining characteristic of an Indian. In fact, among those who say they are Hindu by faith or custom there exists such a range of belief and practice that, in a sense, every single religious sect, caste and ethnic group can be considered a ‘minority’ in a secular India which does not recognise any section of its diverse population as dominant. The Jains and the Sikhs saw this as a door to get minority status. Others, like dalits, can as well.
Point Two. Indians have just two secular faiths in which all communities, castes and ethnic groups believe: Bollywood and cricket. The religious picture, especially of Hinduism, reflects myriad realities. Even Diwali, assumed to be the quintessentially Hindu festival, is an occasion when Bengalis and eastern Indians worship a blood-drunk Kali, not sweet Lakshmi. Navratri in Gujarat has little connection with Dussehra in north India even as they happen at the same time.
And, vegetarianism is not, repeat not, a required Hindu practice. Going by available surveys, a minority of Indians are vegetarian, including a minority of Hindus. Not even Hindu brahmins are all vegetarian. Kashmiri and eastern Indian brahmins eat meat and fish. And ancient Hindus merrily ate beef after sacrificing bulls way back then.
If you don’t believe me, read the literature. For spiritual endorsement, read Vivekananda.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.



Once upon a Time there was Hitler
1. Hitler had not got married
2. Hitler used to think that people of certain religion were enemies of the country
3. Hitler’s supporters could not tolerate any criticism against him/no dissent allowed
4. Hitler used to paint and sell colours in his childhood
5. All the means of publicity, newspapers, magazines were devoted to publicise Hitler
6. Hitler had crushed all Labour movements
7. Hitler used to call his rivals anti-nationals/traitors
8. Hitler had joined the Nazi party as an ordinary worker and gone on to finish all his rivals and had become the leader of the party
9. Hitler had come to power campaigning that he would end all problems in a jiffy
10. Hitler, after he came to power could not manage to end any problems, but he certainly managed to destroy Germany
11. Hitler had come up with a slogan to come to power---Good Times will Come—Acche din aayenge!
12. Hitler’s party when it won, he went to the German Parliament for the first time and cried profusely
13. Hitler had come to power by  lying
14. Hitler used to love dressing up and look good
15. Hitler had the consummate art of making lies look like truth
16. Hitler always used to say, I, me, I, me, I, me always
17. Hitler used to love giving speeches on Radio
18. Hitler used to have a lover whom he used to get spied on
19. Hitler always used in his speeches “friends, friends””(mitron, mitron)
20. Hitler used to love getting photographed
P.S: This post is just and ONLY about Hitler. 

Report of Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer Memorial Public Lecture by Romila Thapar

Report of Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer Memorial Public Lecture
Romila Thapar

26th October 2015
K C College, Mumbai
Public-lecture-1.jpgThe Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer Memorial public lecture was organized by the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and delivered by eminent historian Romila Thapar on 26th October 2015 at KC College Auditorium in Mumbai. The lecture was chaired by prominent academician, Prof. Jairus Banaji. This lecture on the topic of “Indian Society and the Secular” was delivered by Romila Thapar also at Jamia Milia Islamia University at Delhi in August 2015. The previous lectures were delivered by internationally renowned academicians like Imitiaz Yusuf, Monirul Hussain, Wajahat Habbibullah and Faizan Mustafa. These memorial lectures are organized to continue discussions and debates on the questions related to secularism in the memory of Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer who dedicated over five decades of his life for this vexing issue and is celebrated for his mammoth contribution in this area.
The turnout for the lecture was overwhelming with the hall being occupied full to its capacity of 600 persons and 100 odds people returning from the gate of the venue without attending the lecture since the police denied them entry citing security reasons. The audience constituted of diverse groups. Some were students, some academicians, teachers and professors working at prestigious universities and other educational institutions, writers, prominent film makers, politicians, cultural activists, political activists across the range of socialists, left and liberals working in peoples’ movements. The audience came from different cities like Mumbai, Pune, Kolhapur, some even from other countries. This awe inspiring response from such cross sections of society was encouraging. The audience heard the lecture in a spellbound manner and asked very relevant and thought provoking questions indicating the critical reflection the lecture ignited in the audience. The profound scholarship and sharp wit of the speaker enthralled one and all. DSC_9530.JPGThis resonated very strongly in the feedback given by the audience. The feedback and response of the audience was humbling. They found the lecture very insightful offering a historical perspective which helps understand the present socio political scenario in the country. The audience hoped for more such lectures on contemporary issues having ramifications on secularism and democracy.
The significance of the lecture needs to be underlined given the attacks on secular writers- murder of M.M Kalburgi, Pansare and Dabholkar and intellectuals and other voices of dissent. The unconstitutional acts like lynching of innocent over personal choices like food or marriage, hate speeches which aim at spreading hatred and myths against particular religious communities and caste atrocities have culminated in an atmosphere of fear and suppression. The resounding response and enthusiastic participation of the audience was their way of creating democratic space for a voice of dissent or independent thinking which wants to differ than the political and social discourse encouraged by the current dispensation. The huge presence of audience in otherwise commercial city of Mumbai was to reinforce that cross sections of the society are still unmoved by politics of hate and authoritarianism and such sane voices like that of Romila Thapar and Jairus Banaji must be celebrated and highlighted. Romila Thapar with her characteristic witty humor and formidable knowledge provided that confidence. She located the history of India in a liberal narrative replete with examples of shared culture and composite culture and dispelled the colonial perspective of viewing religions in India as monolithic binaries. She not only put secularism and the blatant attacks on it today in a scholarly structure but also suggested the way forth to counter obstacles to secularism. She urged citizenry to voice up their disagreements and work in two important areas of education and civil laws. The audience demonstrated its affirmation to the idea of India defined by secular peaceful space to all its citizens. By showing up on a working day in such great strength, they gave a real tribute to Public-lecture-4.jpgthe memory of Dr. Engineer who always bravely stood up against entrenched institutions and its abuse and underscored the intellectual acumen of a veteran like Romila Thapar. This for any organizer was very inspiring and encourages CSSS to continuously engage with society through such initiatives.
This report attempts at presenting the substance of the lecture. Dr. Ram Puniyani, Chairperson of CSSS and renowned activist- writer introduced Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer and pointed out to the broad four areas of work marked by significant contribution of Dr Engineer. These four areas are- Rights of women in Islam, Bohra reforms, Secularism and chronicling communal violence in India. He emphasized that his work and ideas are all the more relevant and important in the current social context vitiated with hatred and intolerance. Adv Irfan Engineer welcomed everyone to the lecture and introduced the Speaker and the Chair. After Dr. Ram Puniyani presented both with memento as a token of appreciation, Jairus Banaji, Research Professor, School of African and Oriental Studies, said that the BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 had ushered in an unprecedented attack on India’s democracy and injected new elements of intolerance and authoritarianism in the lives of people living in the country. Behind the mask of a developmental regime promising rapid industrial expansion and millions of jobs for the mass of unemployed youth, we’ve seen instead a hideous explosion of the cultural politics of the Extreme Right, overt acclamations of a Hindu rashtra; a wide-ranging takeover of educational and cultural institutions by the RSS; a rampant culture of violence targeting freedom of expression, freedom of religion, intellectual freedoms, even the freedom of the young to love; a calculated drive to communalise voters in North India with hate campaigns that have led to the horrid lynchings at Dadri and Udhampur; a shocking subversion of the judicial system through a concerted drive to secure the release of elements indicted on fake encounter and terrorism charges; fabrication of evidence to crush a handful of individuals who have campaigned for justice for the victims of the Gujarat violence; and of course the brazen murder of  anti-superstition crusaders.  He further said that the fabric of India’s democracy was today being torn to shreds.
Public-lecture-3.jpgAfter his succinct contextualization of the current threats to secular democracy in India, he invited Prof. Romila Thapar to deliver the lecture.  Prof. Romila Thapar stated that a secular society and polity did not mean abandoning religion. It meant that the religious identity of the Indian had to give way to the primary secular identity of an Indian citizen. She further said that the State would have to ensure social justice, provide and protect human rights that came with the secular identity of Indian citizen. Such an identity would be governed by a secular code of laws applicable to all.
Prof. Thapar further stated that secularism involved questioning the control that religious organizations had over social institutions. Secularism in her view did not deny the presence of religion in society but the social institutions over which religion could or could not exercise control had to be demarcated.Some people opposed Secularism, Prof. Thapar said, on the ground that it was a western concept. But then, she said, nationhood and democracy too were new to post colonial India, and the neoliberal market economy was a far stronger imprint of the west.
Quoting Eric Hobsbawm, Prof Thapar said that history was to nationalisms what poppy was to the opium addict – the source.
Though the anti colonial nationalism tried to be broad based and inclusive, bringing in a range of opinion and drawing from shared history, it did not question the idea of the monolithic religious communities. Instead, she said, it focused more on denying their antagonisms, preferred to project just their co-existence. Prof. Thapar said that in pre-Islamic times there were no references to any monolithic type of Hinduism. There were two broad categories of sects that propagated their distinctive ideas; these were referred to as the Brahmanic and the Shramanic.  Brahmana referred to Brahmanic belief and rituals. The early phase in Vedic Bhramanism focused on the ritual of sacrifice, the yajana, invoking many deities and especially Indra and Agni and performed by upper castes. While Shramana referred to shramanas or Buddhists, Jainas, monks of other heterodox orders, the nastika / non believers and their followers and many others such as the Charvaka and Ajivika. The Shramana sects rejected the Vedas, divine sanctions, the concept of the soul and were associated with more rational explanations of the universe and human society. There was a range of distinct sects in both these broad categories.
 Prof. Thapar further said that throughout the second millennium AD, the period described by religious extremists and politicians as the age when ‘we were slaves’, there were scholarly Sanskrit commentaries being composed on Brahmanical religious texts from the Vedas onwards from Kashmir to Kerala. Such scholarship was not without patronage. The exegesis on these texts illustrated high levels of scholarship being widely practiced and exchanged in many centres of that time. Sayana’s explanation of the Rig Veda and Kulluka’s extensive commentary on the Manu Dharmashastra are examples of such learned scholarship.
 Prof. Thapar said that the cultural interaction between what we today call Hinduism and Islam took the form of mutual borrowing of various facets of cultural expressions. Where does one place the poetry of Sayyad, Mohammed Jayasi’sPadmavat or the dohas of the devotee of Krishna, Sayyad Ibrahim Ras Khan, she asked. Brahmana scholars who wrote in Sanskrit had close scholarly relations with the Mughals. Classical Hindustani and Carnatic music was patronised by courts of Maharajas, Sultans and Mughals. The Sarvadarshana-samgraha of Madhavacharya written in 14th century provided a summary of ongoing debates on schools of philosophy. The bhajans of Mira and Surdas and of Tyagaraja and the bandishes of the Dhrupad ragas were not compositions of an enslaved people, she opined.
In conclusion, Prof. Thapar said that the process of secularizing society would have to address both religion and caste. She said, a beginning could be made by ensuring that education and civil laws were secular. Secular education meant to her, availability of all branches of knowledge to all without discrimination and training young people to use and understand what was meant by critical inquiry.
The lecture was followed by opening the floor for some questions from the audience. The questions directed at the speaker sought to understand the role of media in promoting secularism, the pitfalls of rewriting NCERT textbooks and role of education in the sustenance of a secular polity, the myths propagated about history especially cultural aggression of Muslims in Indi and the strategies to be adopted by citizenry to a watch guard of secularism. The crowning glory of the lecture was the wide media attention it received and reportage carried out in different newspapers- one even from Pakistan! Below given are some of the links.

To access the video covering the full lecture delivered by Romila Thapar please click on the link below:

Hindutva burning my country: Admiral Ramdas in open letter to PM

Hindutva burning my country: Admiral Ramdas in open letter to PM

Former chief of Indian Navy urges Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee to uphold rights of every citizen of India.

 |  BREAKING VIEWS  |  5-minute read |   26-10-2015
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Honourable President and Honourable Prime Minister,
It is with a heavy heart, that I write this open letter to you at a time when our beloved country and people are facing severe challenges and threats to our shared heritage.
I have served in the Armed Forces of India – joining soon after Independence as a 15-year-old, to end up as chief of the Indian Navy [1990 to 1993]. I have witnessed many transitions in India – from the horrors of partition in 1947 to the very different world of digital connectivity that we see today.
I also write to you as one who was brought up in the Hindu faith. However, the Hinduism I knew and experienced was gentle, inclusive, and filled with extraordinary diversity. My religion taught me values of love and respect for all beings. My brand of Hinduism was not filled with the kind of violence and intolerance represented by the current brand of “Hindutva” that seems to be fanning the flames of division and fear across the country.
Today, as a veteran in my eighties, I am forced to hang my head in shame as I witness a series of incidents and assaults on our fellow citizens, especially minorities and dalits. Our armed forces which I have had the honour to serve for nearly 45 years, have been an exemplar of India’s secular ethos. Be it in ships and submarines, or in planes and battle formations, we do not discriminate on the basis of caste or religion – we train, we fight, we live, we eat and we die together.
So why are we bearing witness to increasing attacks on minorities across the country, ever since the present government came to power in May 2014? It appears that certain communities are being singled out for special attention. Today, a Muslim has to prove his or her loyalty, and they are being repeatedly put in a situation where their places of worship are under attack, as indeed their eating habits, and other basic freedoms. The instances of completely unilateral mob behaviour leading to many deaths as well as direct insinuations being made by senior leaders, are too numerous and well known to be repeated. And the atrocities on Dalits continue with impunity.
There seems to be a systematic and well orchestrated attempt to impose a majoritarian single point agenda of creating a Hindu Rashtra in India – led by the RSS and their network of groups, which is disturbing to say the least. This in turn has resulted in a dangerous pattern of mob behaviour including intimidating and lynching people merely on the basis of rumours – in total disregard for the established rule of law. In many cases those responsible for implementing the law, have themselves displayed blatant partisan tendencies and behaviour.
Most shocking of all is the fact there has been no unambiguous condemnation of such actions and behaviour by those at the helm of affairs in the country.
Sadly, time and time again, the response of the government seems to indicate an almost studied, but certainly not benign, indifference. The co-ordinated response of those in government seems to be to downplay the serious and vicious nature of these allegations and attacks – by terming them "sad" and "unfortunate" – whereas there should be outrage and a demonstrated will to ensure that this society will not tolerate such behaviour. That there are MPs, Cabinet ministers and elected chief ministers who are in the forefront of these comments and actions, leads one to believe that the ruling party and its satellite organisations are working to a plan and with utter contempt for the rule of law and all norms of decency.
I do not need to point out to the top leadership today, that this is playing with fire in a nation where minorities – especially Muslims and Christians, as also dalits and adivasis, are already feeling discriminated and marginalised. Instead of treating this amazing diversity as our strength, today we are being seen by the international community as increasingly insular, parochial, intolerant, racist and even fascist. The violence visited upon vulnerable sections reinforces the image of India as an imperfect democracy where all forms of dissent are discouraged and human rights trampled upon with impunity.
The prime minister and his ministers in the government are sworn in by the President of India, and they take an oath pledging to uphold the Indian Constitution. Their failure to do so, as evidenced in the foregoing, is a serious matter and does not augur well either for national security or national integrity. The central and state governments must act swiftly, unequivocally condemn all such incidents, and ensure that justice is done and the guilty are punished. Such action alone will have a salutary deterrent effect on all those, be they fringe or mainstream, who are speaking and acting in many voices that are totally against and inimical to, our traditional ethos and the syncretic culture of our country and its people.
India represents a unique blend of peoples and cultures which have evolved over 5,000 years in a constantly changing and dynamic process. This diversity and unique nature of our society and people can probably never be replicated anywhere on this earth – and for this reason alone, the concept of a single religious identity or mono culture represents an insult to this ancient civilisation and heritage.
Honourable Mr President, honourable Mr Prime Minister, you have both sworn to honour the right of every single citizen to freedom of speech, worship, association as brilliantly articulated in the Indian Constitution. As a former serviceman and a veteran, like you, I too have promised to uphold the same constitution. It is our bounden duty that the elected government of this nation must honour the rights of every citizen of this land as amply spelled out in the Preamble of the Constitution and further elaborated in the Directive Principles of State policy.
As supreme commander and the chief executive – this is what you must ensure and implement by all the powers vested in you by the people of India.
If we do not stem the rot now – it might be too late. Indeed, we the people of India look to you to take all steps necessary to restore faith in our democracy and in the promise of bringing dignity, fraternity and equality to each of our citizens.
L Ramdas
Shri Pranab Mukherji Hon President of India Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi
Shri Narender Modi Hon Prime Minister 7, Race Course Road New Delhi

Feast of St Alphonsus Rodriguez A GREAT JESUIT SAINT - TODAY OCTOBER 31st

St Alphonsus Rodriguez was known for his AVAILABILITY, HUMILITY, SIMPLICITY & HOLINESS!!! 

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
Friday, October 30, 2015
Lived(c. 1533-1617) | Feast Day: Friday, October 30, 2015
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Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer.
Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation.
Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations.
His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems.
Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.

We like to think that God rewards the good even in this life. But Alphonsus knew business losses, painful bereavement and periods when God seemed very distant. None of his suffering made him withdraw into a shell of self-pity or bitterness. Rather, he reached out to others who lived with pain, including enslaved blacks. Among the many notables at his funeral were the sick and poor people whose lives he had touched. May they find such a friend in us!

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Raghuram Rajan bats for tolerance, says bans stifle debate, excessive political correctness harms progress

Raghuram Rajan bats for tolerance, says bans stifle debate, excessive political correctness harms progress

Posted on: 12:44 PM IST Oct 31, 2015 | Updated on: 2:43 pm,Oct 31,2015 IST
New Delhi: Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan on Saturday joined the award wapsi debate, saying "excessive political correctness stifles progress as much as excessive licence and disrespect".
Addressing students at Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, the RBI Governor said that bans could not be a quick resort. "It is better to improve environment for ideas through intolerance and mutual respect," he said.
India's tradition of debate and an open spirit of enquiry is critical for the economic progress of the country, said Rajan.
Further pointing that "India’s tradition of debate and an open spirit of enquiry" is critical for the economic progress of the country, Rajan said that "tolerance can take offense out of debate".
"Ideas must be allowed to compete with sense of mutual respect...tolerance and respect lead to equilibrium," he added.
Reacting to the statement, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy hit out at the RBI Governor, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi must sack him. He claimed that Rajan had made a "mess" out of RBI.
(With PTI Inputs)

Friday, October 30, 2015

WE CAN NO LONGER REMAIN SILENT! by Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

Romila Thapar is one of the most celebrated historians of India known for her scholarship and academic integrity; there are few in the country who can challenge her expertise and her objectivity. A few days ago, this 83-year old scholar was invited to deliver a lecture in Mumbai entitled ‘Indian society and the secular’. The lecture was dedicated to the well-known social reformer, the late Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer. Several of Mumbai’s intelligentsia and other progressives were there to listen to the erudite scholar. The irony of it was that in a country which is constitutionally pledged to secularism, a battalion of the Mumbai police force were all around the lecture hall not merely to forestall “any untoward incident” but also in preventing late-comers from entering a jam-packed hall.

Writing in ‘The Wire’ Jyoti Punwani says “when a public lecture by one of the country’s most distinguished, internationally respected academics has khaki uniforms all over, you know your city has entered what Urdu writer Rahman Abbas calls an “era of darkness”, where thought itself is in danger. As Romila Thapar said, it’s time for us to stand up and shout that as citizens, this is not the city we knew, the country we want.

“Era of darkness?” Are we exaggerating things or are we reminded of Bertolt Brecht, the famous German poet, playwright and theatre director who was not afraid to take on Hitler and who wrote about “the dark times”? What has been happening with frightening regularity all over the country is surely a concern for all those who treasure the secular fabric of our country and the values and freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution. The list of happenings is painfully endless; these include: the killing of rationalists; attacking freedom of speech and expression; denigrating minorities; lynching someone who has eaten meat; police raiding the Kerala Bhavan in New Delhi; above all, the way the RSS has been posturing itself and its nexus with the Government, certainly does not augur well for the future of India.

Thankfully besides Romila Thapar, more than fifty of the most acknowledged historians of India have protested through a very powerful statement at “the highly vitiated atmosphere prevailing in the country”.  Well-known scientist P.M. Bhargava returned his Padma Bhushan saying that democracy is under threat in the country. Over one hundred distinguished scientists have also spoken out saying “we, the scientists, are concerned about the recent developments with reference to intolerance, polarisation and spread of communal hatred resulting in the death of innocent people.....a highly polarized community is like a nuclear bomb close to criticality. It can explode any time and drive the nation to utter chaos”. This wave of protest was of course begun by the litterateurs of the country; more than forty of them have returned their prestigious Sahitya Akademi awards; joining the chorus of protests have been some of the leading film directors, celebrities and activists including the former Chief of the Indian Navy, Admiral L. Ramdas.

On expected lines, Modi, the BJP, RSS and their ilk do their best to belittle and pooh-pooh these voices of protests.  Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, on Thursday said, “you will find a lot of rabid, anti-BJP elements among them”. In the final analysis, those who matter are not going to be cowed down. No one wants the country to be destroyed by fundamentalists, fascists and fanatics.

The rest of us, can no longer remain silent in the face of this onslaught!
30th October, 2015

* (Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
Address: ‘PRASHANT’, Hill Nagar, Near Saffron Hotel, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052
Phone: (079) 27455913, 66522333 Fax:  (079) 27489018                             

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

DUSSEHRA: INTERNALISING AND DOING GOOD! by Fr. Cedric Prakash sj (October 22nd 2015)

-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

Dussehra (Vijaya Dashami) is once again here and will be celebrated with traditional pomp and gaiety all over the country. It is a moment for every Indian to spend some time reflecting on the significance of the festival and ask ourselves whether we have truly internalised the meaningful values which this great festival embodies.

On Dussehra, we celebrate the triumph of good over evil; of how Lord Ram defeats the demon king Ravan who typifies all that is evil.  India’s great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata provide us with gripping narratives of the festival. 

We need to look around today to see how the forces of evil seem to have plunged a deadly weapon into the heart of India: in Faridabad two innocent dalit children are burnt alive by the higher castes; in Dadri, a man is lynched because of some rumours that he ate beef; in Mumbai, a motley group of Shiv Sainiks violently hold the State to ransom and prevent the improving of relations with Pakistan; intellectuals like Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalburgi, who demonstrate courage to take on right-wing forces, are killed; human rights defenders who take a stand against powerful vested interests on behalf of the minorities, the dalits, the adivasis are subject to constant harassment; Godse, the one who killed Mahatma Gandhi, is ‘honoured’; women continue to be on the receiving end of a male chauvinistic society (‘Ram’ no longer wants to protect and save ‘Sita’ today); children are not spared: if not sexually abused, several of them are condemned to hard labour; one can go on and on, ad nauseam.

There is a silver lining though: several of India’s top intellectuals which include litterateurs, historians, poets, sociologists, journalists and others have visibly and vocally stood up against the forces of evil. These are citizens with impeccable credentials which include a high degree of credibility, objectivity and impartiality.  Several of them have had the courage to return Government awards and recognitions which were well-deserved; but they do so only because they conscientiously feel that the Constitutional rights (particularly freedom of speech and expression) are today being grossly violated.

Dussehra then, this year, should be a special moment of grace for all Indians, when one is called in no uncertain terms to take the side of good, of truth and of justice against the forces of evil, that are making every attempt to destroy all that is sacred to the people of India. One can no longer think that dealing with these forces of evil is the prerogative of just a few; every right-thinking Indian citizen needs to wake up at this moment and to remind ourselves that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing”.

As we burn and purge the ‘Ravan’ within us and in society, let us fervently pray in the words from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

“Lead me from the unreal to the real;
Lead me from darkness to light;
Lead me from death to immortality”

21st October, 2015

* (Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

Address: ‘PRASHANT’, Hill Nagar, Near Saffron Hotel, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052

Phone: (079) 27455913, 66522333 Fax:  (079) 27489018                             

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

INDIA INTOLERANT! by Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

In the run-up to the General Elections of 2004, the ruling BJP and their allies in the NDA, coined a slogan ‘India Shining’. That ‘India Shining’ campaign was basically a massive cover up for a whole range of misdeeds which included growing intolerance and attacks on the minorities culminating in the Gujarat Carnage of 2002; a slogan which proved to be its nemesis at the hustings!

Ten years later, in 2014 the BJP-led NDA were given the reins of power once again. About 31% of those who voted felt that they needed a Government with ‘a difference’ and they hoped that the “achche din” promised during the election campaign would soon become a reality for India’s teeming millions.  Sadly but not unexpectedly, the dreams of a better tomorrow have vanished into thin air.  As the country continues to be plagued with a whole range of problems, what one experiences with a sickening regularity is the growing intolerance from certain sections of society. India has always had its moment of intolerance. In the past however, they seemed to be contained - with the ruling powers demonstrating some political will to address them. Not so today. There seems to be a tacit approval from the government, a legitimisation, of the terrible intolerance.

Let’s then look at some of the many acts of intolerance right from mid-2014: Nathuram Godse,  who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation overnight becomes a hero and a patriot; Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS Chief calls for the establishment of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (nation); a Union Minister, Niranjan Jyoti turns abusive saying that in India, one is either ‘ramzadon’ (those born of Ram) or ‘haramzadon’ (illegitimately born); the HRD Minister through a circular states that Christmas Day (December 25th) should be a working day for schools (and then denies it); the Government however continues to insist that it is not a holiday for Government employees.

On September 14, 2014, a BJP Parliamentarian Sakshi Maharaj made a strong allegation that, “the Madrasas of the Muslims were teaching terror”. On January 5, 2015, addressing a gathering in Meerut, he boldly proclaimed, “the concept of four wives and 40 children will not work in India and the time has come when a Hindu woman must produce at least four children in order to protect Hindu religion.” The same news report goes on to add, ‘Sakshi Maharaj went further to add that those involved in conversion must be punished with death though ‘ghar wapsi’ (reconversion) is not equivalent to conversion. “Wait for some time,” he thundered, “a law will be passed in Parliament in which anyone indulging in cow slaughter and conversion will be punished with the death sentence”.

So the Dadri lynching of 28th September 2015 - when Mohammad Akhlaq was killed because of a rumour that ‘he ate beef’ – should not be seen as a spontaneous act of violence by a mob but a well thought of barbaric act by people who know that they can do things with impunity, because they are vested with immunity.

The Shiv Sena (a key ally of the BJP) in Mumbai takes law and order in their own hands! They prevent Ghulam Ali, the Pakistani musician from performing there; storm the Board of Control for Cricket in India office protesting plans for a bi-lateral series with Pakistan and they attack and ink the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni (a protégé of L. K Advani) for organising the book launch of former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri.  The list is indeed endless!

As a formality, the President of the BJP Amit Shah summons besides Sakshi Maharaj, the Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, the UP State Legislator Sangeet Som and the Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan and gently informs them that they should not make inflammatory remarks. Besides, the BJP will not ditch its Hindutva ally the Shiv Sena. A time-tested strategy is ‘to run with the hare and hunt with the hound’.  So while the Shiv Sena in its extremism will reap the ‘moolah’ from the hardliners, the BJP with its cosmetic posturing will seem like a ‘liberal face’ and continue to woo the average citizen who is not interested in understanding the depth of dirt from which these groups operationalise.

Everyone is aware that practically nothing will happen to the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. The Gujarat Carnage of 2002 provided the criminals with an official approval from the Government of the day.  This model of intolerance is now being mainstreamed all over the country.  Of course, some from the ruling dispensation are concerned when some of the topmost intellectuals of the country have the courage to return the prestigious national awards which they have received in the past. This is something which was not expected. On the one hand, they request the intellectuals “not to spoil the name of India” and at the same time some of them will also denigrate these intellectuals by casting aspersions on their credibility by calling them “pseudo-intellectuals” and “traitors”.

Those who rule us must ask themselves one question: who are the ones responsible for spoiling the name of the country; for trying to destroy the precious heritage of multi-culturalism, pluralism and diversity of our land? On October 19th, President Pranab Mukherjee while expressing his concerns over the recent happenings pointedly said that “Indian civilisation has survived for 5000 years because of its tolerance; humanism and pluralism should not be abandoned under any circumstance”.

‘Panchjanya’ the mouth-piece of the RSS in a recent issue has an article stating that “the Vedas order the killing of ‘sinners’ who slaughter cows.” And no case is made out on this article of hate. Few however have the courage to listen to one of the greatest historian on ancient and medieval India Dr. D.N. Jha who in his celebrated work ‘The Myth of the Holy Cow’ concludes that “the cow was neither unslayable nor sacred in the Vedic period”. 

Thanks to those who rule us today, India has perhaps deservedly earned itself a new sobriquet, “India Intolerant”. It’s not too late however for civil society to come together and to tell those who are bent on destroying what we treasure the most that they will never succeed in their campaign of intolerance. We need to learn from history and not allow the pain, the sufferings and the violence to go full cycle before we say “enough is enough”!  We need to pray with Rabindranath Tagore “into that heaven of freedom my Father, let my country awake”. Above all, the time to act is now!

20th October, 2015

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

Address: ‘PRASHANT’, Hill Nagar, Near Saffron Hotel, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052

Phone: (079) 27455913, 66522333 Fax:  (079) 27489018