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Friday, February 8, 2008

Nation shrunk

6 Feb 2008, 1414 hrs IST

India is marching ahead economically. Agreed. Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh soon after his Beijing visit and gave the correct signals to the expansionist dragon. Good job done. And then we come to the news of Mr Raj Thackeray, the gadfly politician of Maharashtra who has warned North Indians and accused Amitabh Bachchan of betraying the “cause” of the state. First I thought we must ignore it completely: the more we talk about it the more pettiness swells to murky levels. But after the media picked up the issue for its nuisance value and the hate machines kicked into motion, its after-effects began getting louder and uglier. Hence the disease should be addressed. A polity that draws sustenance from a fractured society and from reductionism become more rewarding than the all-inclusive embrace; the fallout is bound to reach us in various extremist forms, divisive polity being one of them. When a narrow, shrunken vision is preferred over a national outlook and national perspective, the Raj Thackerays emerge winners. What’s the difference between a Raj making Indians fight with other Indians and a UPA government sowing the seeds of distrust and hate among Indians on the basis of religious reservations for one community and assaulting the faith icons of the other? Or for that matter, ULFA in Assam killing Hindi-speaking Indians and outfits like Lashkar and Jaish-e-Mohammad murdering Hindu Indians in Jammu and Kashmir? Someone shoots from guns, another uses a microphone and the third does it by abusing constitutional authority. The result is identical - India is bruised and shrunk. They are the reducers of an idea called India. Unfit to be called Indians yet they use the democratic freedom and the egalitarian values enshrined in the constitution. They reduce Shivaji to a Maharashtrian leader, nay a Maratha, and over and above a Kurmi icon. The caste and vote machine is their nation, the rest is wasteland. The industrialists have their nation shrunk in Forbes listings and Sensex manoeuvrings – they don't care who the ruler is till their ambitions find a well-oiled path to realisation. Have you ever seen an industrialist fund the removal of a corrupt and nincompoop minister? Instead, the more the corrupt, the merrier is the moneymaker. The nation hurts ultimately, but whose nation? The moneymakers' nation is somewhere else and secured! The first scandal India saw immediately after a partitioned independence was the infamous jeep scam involving Krishna Menon, our high commissioner to the UK. The jeeps were needed immediately, yesterday, as the saying goes. They reached a year after the war ended in a fiasco and after we had lost two-thirds of Kashmir to Pakistan. Even then the jeeps were unusable, but Nehru forced the government to accept them. Finally, uproar in the Parliament compelled Krishna Menon to resign. All for the money gone into political coffers. And what was the “vision” for security forces that Nehru presented? Wing Commander (retd) R V Parasnis writes: “Soon after Independence, the first commander-in-chief of the Indian armed forces, General Sir Robert Lockhart, presented a paper outlining a plan for the growth of the Indian Army to Prime Minister Nehru. “Nehru's reply: ‘We don't need a defence plan. Our policy is non-violence. We foresee no military threats. You can scrap the army. The police are good enough to meet our security needs.’ “He didn't waste much time. On September 16, 1947, he directed that the army's then strength of 280,000 be brought down to 150,000. Even in fiscal 1950-51, when the Chinese threat had begun to loom large on the horizon, 50,000 army personnel were sent home as per his original plan to disband the armed forces. “After Independence, he once noticed a few men in uniform in a small office the army had in North Block and angrily had them evicted. “Soon after Independence, he separated the army, navy, and air force from a unified command and abolished the post of commander-in-chief of the armed forces, thus bringing down the status of the seniormost military chief. “He continued to demote the status of the three service chiefs at irregular intervals in the order of precedence in the official government protocol, a practice loyally continued by successive governments to the benefit of politicians and bureaucrats. “During the 1947-48 war with Pakistan in Kashmir, Nehru interfered with purely military decisions at will which delayed the war and changed the ultimate outcome in Pakistan's favour. He developed a precedent to violate channels and levels of communications at that time. His penchant for verbal orders to the various army commanders, of which he kept no records, violated the chain of command. “The army thereafter reversed this trend.” But at what cost? The Nehrus and Menons made India lose 125,000 sq km to the enemy. What happened to them? No politician has been ever held accountable for the national loss incurred because of his misdeeds, divisive politics and ill-governance. The more divisive and exploitative of pubic money and trust he becomes, the more votes he gets and he is hailed as a “seasoned” politician. So why blame Raj Thackeray? Those who get votes on the basis of dividing people and feel no remorse seeing youngsters burning themselves against their policies reap worse than the Raj Thackerays. It's the failure of national parties and organisations that parochialism and narrow polity with a shrunken vision is allowed to play with national integration and peoples' money. The game of de-listing, unlisting and enlisting on the basis of the colour of your thoughts divides more sharply than the buffoonery of the parochial players.
We have leaders of Yadavs, Gujjars, Jats, Brahmins, Dalits and tribals. We have champions of UP, Bihar, Bengal, Tamil Nadu and other states. If something happens to Tamils anywhere in the world, it’s the “sacred duty” of the Tamil Nadu leaders alone to feel their pain and speak up for them. When Malaysia's Hindus of Tamil origin were persecuted, the only chief minister that spoke against it was Karunanidhi, not Lalu Yadav or Nitish Kumar. They were Tamil ‘nationals', hence Tamils should support their cause, and similarly Hindi-speaking Indians get support from the 'Hindi nation' when persecuted in Assam or Maharashtra. The media houses have their nation shrunk in ad revenues and TRP ratings and anything that enhances it overshadows the broad, pan-Indian concern. Hence the daily doses of a tamasha called news gets spread with musical effects and a thousand times repeats of the same 10 second clips with special effects and an anchoring that surpasses the dramatics of a street madari – “ dekho dekho dekho-ek tamasha dekho ”. The victim is truth and objectivity, but just as the Rai Bahadurs of colonial times didn't care what Bhagat Singh was sacrificing his life for, we too love our comfort zones. When Kashmiri Hindus were persecuted and made to leave their home and hearth in the valley, no one from Bihar or Tamil Nadu raised the issue because the persecuted Pandits didn't belong to their “nation”; moreover, they were persecuted not because they were Brahmins or Jats or Dalits but because they were simply Hindus!! The shrunken political space holders forget that when Hindi-speaking Indians are attacked in Assam or Maharashtra or booed in Srinagar, it isn’t Hindi or those individuals who are the real targets, but it’s the symbol of a nationality denoted by the tricolour and the language that is assaulted. The wholesome concept of the nation being represented by any symbol is left forlorn and disowned in a secular dispensation quintessentially hateful to unifier elements which are and have to be civilisational and unambiguously Hindu or Vedic or Bharatiya - take your pick. But the governance trying to demoralise the majority and its faith in the continuum of the historical flow that gives the land and her people an identity shrinks the integrating factors and revives the old unfortunate episodes of fractured and unconnected rulers of the Aryavarta who kept their armies and arsenal limited to the protection of the shrunken ideas of a nationhood. I give you an example that should sadden those who care for the broader picture. Some friends are trying to run a most unique residential school for Himalayan tribal children based on the ideals of patriotism and equality, irrespective of religious denominations. Yet, it has become an arduous task to gather support because help comes only on the basis of caste and provincialism. The state would ask quite comfortably, why have you brought children from Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh; why not just local children? If the mantra to succeed is be local and forget the rest of the land, which exists only for passing exams and getting certificates, with what authority do we complain about children not knowing enough about the greatness and grandeur of their land? Nagas are not taught about Ganga and Badrinath because they are Hindu symbols and Ladakhis are not taught about Arunachal's bravehearts and heroes, because they are nature worshippers and hence not a common concern. And Kerala's spectacular Christian traditions are not a part of our national school curriculum because they are Christian. So on and so forth, but we keep lamenting what we see in Mumbai and Guwahati. What a hypocritical cheek we have!

Endangered Ladakh

30 Jan 2008, 1211 hrs IST

Thupstan Chhewang, belonging to the Royals of Leh is a highly respected Ladakhi leader who was once president of Ladakh Congress party. His one member party in Parliament is supporting UPA. He was also the firebrand leader of Ladakh Buddhist Association, which led a phenomenal movement against socio-political discrimination by Srinagar's communal governance in late eighties resulting in the formation of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council. His unassuming soft spoken personality exudes confidence and a rare dedication for the cause of his people and the nation. If he has raised an alarm on the Chinese incursions in Ladakh it must be taken seriously. Of late Ladakh has been witnessing a continuous trespassing by Chinese shepherds and soldiers in Chushul area where we fought a famous war of Trishul mountains led by Major Shaitan Singh (who received Param Vir Chakra after his and his brave men's bodies were discovered one year after their martyrdom) and in the vast grass lands near Demchok. It's the point where a nullah defines the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Indus enters India at this point from the Kailas Manasarovar region in western Tibet and it is a region great scintillating natural beauty. The people of Ladakh have been demanding opening of this route to reach Kailas Manasarovar in a shorter and safer way. Chinese are known to enter our region in a clandestine manner. In the initial stage they would do it through innocent passages into our territory using shepherds, soldiers and traders. If caught, they would say, oh nothing to worry we simply went wayward. If not, it continues for years, the intruders would leave their marks, some properties and cattle too. Make some permanent bases. Later these small 'marks' would be used to claim that 'since ages' Chinese have been using that piece of land - see the 'proofs'! We were caught napping during Kargil intrusion. When patriotic Ladakhi shepherds told the Army about Pakistani intrusions initially, it was not taken seriously. In the same way alarms about the latest Chinese intrusion are being taken lightly and in some 'strategic' quarters its being suggested that such talks would hamper the growing trade between the two nations. Sometime back a BJP Member of Parliament from Arunachal, Kiren Rijiju, had created a furore by claiming that Chinese are intruding in the state. He had even mentioned particular spots where the intrusion had taken place. Again the state and the Centre were swift in ridiculing the allegation and as recent as December Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters, when asked about reports of alleged incursion of Indian territories and removal of a few forward posts by China, 'I don't want to go into details. As far as Indian territories are concerned nothing has happened," The fact is that the Chinese have a focussed military presence in this area and that's the reason of their silence over Indian demand to open the route to Manasarovar via Demchok. I had taken up this issue four times during my stint as the member of India-China Eminent Persons' Group formed by the Ministry of External Affairs. Every time we raised the issue, the Chinese side would listen attentively but nothing would come out of it ever. Not even a written acknowledgement. Now a few facts: Out of 2,22,236 sq kms of the J&K state, Jammu has 26,293 sq kms and Ladakh 1,38,942 sq kms. It must be remembered that 78,114 sq kms of the state is under illegal occupation of Pakistan, 37,555 sq kms under illegal occupation of China and 5,180 sq kms have been illegally handed over to China by Pakistan. While Ladakh constitutes 69.60 % of the state's total land area, Kashmir valley, the most turbulent and vocal one is just 11.48 % and Jammu 18.92 %. Within Ladakh, Buddhist majority district Leh has 45,110 sq kms and Shia Muslim majority district Kargil has 13,000 sq kms. While Kargil has shown an extraordinary growth in population of 17.34 % in the years between 1981to 1991, Leh population grew at the rate of just 9.10 %. Even in Leh district the population of Muslims increased from 15.32 % in 1981 to 18.37 % in 1991 (projected). Buddhists fear an assault on their culture and traditions through the conversion of Buddhist girls and a planned effort to outnumber Buddhists through a population aggression. In 1992 an agreement was signed between the Ladakh Muslim Association and Ladakh Buddhist Association, the supreme organization of Ladakh representing Buddhists, at the intervention of Ministry of Home Affairs ensuring that the Buddhists converted to Islam shall be allowed to return to their original faith, but the Muslims never honoured the agreement. The following points were raised by the Buddhist Association in a memorandum to the Central Government - 1. During 1992-99, 24 Buddhist girls from Leh district were converted to Islam and majority of them were taken to Kargil. 2. Twelve villages with hamlets of Buddhists, comprising 651 families (numbering app. 5000 persons) located at 40 to 60 kms from Kargil town were targeted for conversions. Till 2002, 72 boys and girls were converted to Islam as per the survey conducted by the Ladakh Buddhist Association. 3. Muslims of Kargil are not allowing the LBA to repair and reconstruct a 40 year old. Gompa comprising three rooms and at present lying in shambles. 4. Cremation of dead Buddhists is not allowed at Kargil and the body has to be moved at a remote Buddhist area. 5. No Buddhist Sarai is allowed to be constructed at Kargil though there has been a demand for the last 35 years. 6. Six new mosques have been constructed at Leh town during 1989-99 in close vicinity of Buddhist habitations and in a planned manner more than 540 Muslim families have been settled at Leh, majority of them coming from Kargil. 7. Kargil has 20% Buddhist population. Yet (a) only one Buddhist was appointed as patwari out of 24 patwaris, the rest were all Muslims. (b) In 1998, 40 employees for class IV were appointed in education department, out of these only one was Buddhist, that too after his conversion to Islam.
Similar complaints, with proven statistics were given regarding discrimination against Buddhists in the Kashmir Administrative Services (KAS), admission to medical and engineering colleges, and allocation of development funds received from the Centre. Needless to say such discriminations would fuel the anger and communalise the polity in an ugly manner if proper corrections are not made immediately. Though the Central government and Indian Army have been helping the people of Kashmir Valley at the cost of the other states' development, the unrest and anti-Indian feelings in the Valley have shown an increase rather than getting subsided. But the patriotic Buddhist population of Ladakh is being 'punished' by the Central and the state government both for political reasons. The administration in Leh is controlled by the sultans of Srinagar. The Leh Autonomous Development Council which has a majority of those members demanding a separate Union Territory status for Ladakh (under a political entity of UP Morcha) so that they are unshackled from the communal bondage of Srinagar, is discriminated against by local district commissioner and police superintendent. No amount of complaints gets any result. Buddhist leaders like Chhewang ask if they are being punished for their loyalty and patriotism. No government has considered the complaints of the local Ladakhi Buddhists seriously. In January 2000, a news report appeared that stated the pain and agony of the Buddhists. It read: ‘President of Ladakh Buddhist Association Mr Samphal said between 1992 and 1999, 24 women had been forced to adopt Islam and the state government had "misinformed" the Union Home Ministry that some of the women had married Muslim youths willingly. He said some Buddhist women "had been whisked away" to Kashmir where court documents were "clandestinely" prepared to show that the Buddhist women had married the Muslim youths willingly. 'Mr Samphal has requested the Union Home Minister to intervene and ensure that 39 Buddhist students who had been taken away from Ladakh by some Christian missionaries were brought back to the land of lamas before they were forced to adopt Christianity.' (Jan 12, 2000, Tribune News Service). When the UPA government took over, the first thing they did to Ladakh was to change the name of the world famous Sindhu Darshan Festival to Ladakh Singhey Khabab Spring Festival because, as the minister stated on record, the name Sindhu Darshan smacked of 'Hindu Darshan'! This is the attitude towards the national integration of this secular government. Recently in December 2007 a delegation of Ladakhi leaders had a meeting with the Prime Minister and demanded inclusion of their Bhoti language in the eighth schedule and a non-discriminatory behaviour by the Congress led government of J&K. Though the language of Kashmir valley is Kashmiri, yet due to communal reasons they chose to have Urdu as their state language and the same is imposed on Ladakhi Buddhists too, ignoring their traditional Bhoti language. Their memorandum submitted to Dr. Manmohan Singh stated, 'The Congress-led state government is treating the duly-elected Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC-Leh) with utter contempt. A reign of terror and repression has been let loose against us by the Congress-led state government in Jammu and Kashmir.’ ‘The police have been set upon on us as a clearly pre-meditated strategy to browbeat us into submission. The forcible closure of the headquarters of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), framing of false criminal cases including murder and attempt to murder against its office-bearers, police assault on an elected Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) councillor, disrespect being shown to the Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor of the LAHDC and a campaign of calumny against the LUTF chief.’ ‘How can policemen or bureaucrats be allowed to ride roughshod over a democratic dispensation? How can they treat our social and religious organisations with utter contempt? Their wrong-doings have strengthened our resolve to keep striving for Union Territory for we want to strengthen what we regard as our umbilical chord with New Delhi.’ I would quote a few lines from a famous international journalist Barbara Crossette's report appeared in The New York Times on September 13, 1989- ' The disturbances, which began in July after a Muslim-Buddhist brawl in Leh's main bazaar, became more intense and larger after Aug. 27, when the Kashmiri state police fired on a Buddhist demonstration, killing three people. The police also arrested the president of the Buddhist Association, Thupsthan Chhewang, a member of Ladakh's former royal family. The unrest in Ladakh adds a dangerous dimension to a generally deteriorating political situation in Jammu and Kashmir, India's most sensitive border state. Militant Muslim groups in Srinagar, the state capital, and the surrounding Valley of Kashmir have sustained a year-long campaign of violence that is becoming more openly separatist. On Aug. 14, Pakistani Independence Day, and on Aug. 17, the anniversary of the death in an air crash in 1988 of Pakistan's President, Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, Kashmiri militants in Srinagar and other towns plastered posters bearing General Zia's portrait on buildings and bridges. A Pakistani flag was hoisted over state office buildings.' What has changed since then? The separatists and traitors are being appeased by the secular government in Delhi and Srinagar but the patriots, who have fought most valiantly all the wars with Pakistan and China, bringing home highest decorations given the martyred soldiers are being treated with contempt. Himalayas, was once called the unconquerable security wall of the grand Aryavarta i.e. Hindustan. The myth fell apart in '62 aggression by the Chinese and still neither the younger generation nor the sunset leadership in politics seems to be much bothered about securing the security wall, nature had so thoughtfully gifted us. From J&K to Arunachal, we have Ladakh, Himachal, Uttaranchal, UP and Bihar's border area with Nepal, Sikkim and Assam reaching up to the Tawang region of Arunachal on this belt. Not a single spot can be said to be a secure and unthreatened one and the fears of disturbance are increasing by the day on this entire belt. While Ladakh, Himachal, Uttaranchal, UP and Bihar are basically threatened by Islamic Jihadis and their population aggression with active hub centres in their madrassas, presently joined by the Communist terrorists in the guise of Maoists, the North Eastern region is rife with Church supported insurgent movements. The heights of Himalayas are endangered under the secular anti-patriotism dispensation.

Citizens must participate in own affairs

23 Jan 2008, 1451 hrs IST

Are we a republic? On the eve of Republic Day, it’s rather sacrilegious to ask this question, but on seeing the passive voter who has learnt to bash governance at each step and on seeing political parties being run as family fiefdoms, it’s more appropriate to say we are a nation trying to emerge as a republic. What's the status of inner party democracy and how are parties commonly described? Congress under Sonia, BSP under Mayawati, DMK and ADMK under Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa respectively, RJD under Lalu and Rabri, National Conference under the senior and junior Abdullahs and the Samajwadi Party under Mulayam Singh are some of the expressions used. Words like elections, democratic norms, republican sentiments and acceptance of differing viewpoints are replaced with nominations, authoritarian dictates, crowd-pulling capacities and 'follow or out' norms. Still, we think at least we are doing better than Pakistan and Bangladesh and perhaps Myanmar too. Democratic values are defined not only through personal, political and economic freedoms but also through peoples' actions and strength of the non-political leadership. Those who do not necessarily seek political and public office, yet are determined to correct socio-political wrongs. Those who volunteer to take the lead and be the first to face the bullets but do not don the mantle of rulers. If roads are dirty, temples littered rivers filthy and railway platforms stinking, it's not just the bad ruler and the incompetent bureaucrat to be blamed. The failure of inactive. self-centred people to rise and revolt is equally responsible for a failing state. When political parties comprise climbers and seekers alone at the micro levels as well and peoples' organisations run after government grants and patronage, republics turn into banana republics. In spite of a spectacular urban economic growth and mushrooming religious organisations with astonishing clout, India is witnessing an abysmally low level of non-political leadership that can change the spectrum for the general good of the masses. Temples in most of the holy towns and pilgrim centres remain dirty, priests do not utter mantras correctly and take money from devotees and then we expect the government to do something about it. The government takes over temples, resulting in further deterioration. Delhi is on the banks of the Yamuna, one of the greatest rivers of the land, yet it’s impossible to take a guest for a walk along the Yamuna or use a few drops for religious chores. Yet the government is petitioned, urged, requested to do something about it. That's how the devotees of Krishna, whose life would remain incomplete without the Yamuna, continue with their daily routines. Delhi is ruled by Hindus, so are other states where we have holy shrines. Yet not only do the Hindu rulers belonging to any which party or ideology shy away from making pilgrim centres the best managed centres of faith in the world, but even Hindu billionaires and the socially effective glitterati find the civil dharma too mean to be engaged in.
The other day, ADMK leader Jayalalithaa issued a statement against Chief Minister K. Karunanidhi over the government’s attitude towards Rameshwaram temple where 15 cows had died due to negligence. I was there a couple of weeks ago and saw the world famous temple in a pathetic state. The main door, through which devotees enter the corridor leading to the sanctum sanctorum, had a huge billboard of Karunanidhi as if a darshan of the Chief Minister, an atheist, is compulsory before Lord Shiva's darshan. The corridor was littered with spilled prasadam, flowers and dirt. At the entrance itself, inside the temple precincts, an ugly cabin of Tamil Nadu Tourism had been erected and next to it was a cycle and scooter stand for government employees working there. On the right was a marble plaque announcing the opening of the Mandapam and unveiling of a statue of Raja Bhaskar Sethupathy on February 11, 1974. He was a protector of the Ram Sethu and belonged to a warrior clan created with the sole purpose of protecting the great bridge that Ram built. Inside the temple area, the grandeur of the Rameshwaram pillars is a mesmerising sight – 400 in all in a 4,000-feet long corridor. It's a world heritage site built in the 12th century by the Lankan King Parakram Bahu. Later kings of Ramanathpuram and Travancore kept on adding to the structure. Swami Vivekananda visited the temple on January 27, 1897 and a stone engraving cherishes that memory; his praise of the temple priests has been inscribed in his own handwriting. The Shiva lingam at the temple is believed to have been built by Sita with clay and is one of the 12 jyotilirlingas. Such an ancient temple and world heritage site is in utter neglect and is losing its pristine glory and charm. The well inside the room where prasadam is prepared and the kitchen are in shambles, darkness prevails with a feeble lamp adding confusion to the smoky and darkened room. Devotees are given stale and badly cooked bhog. Still, thousands of Hindus visit the place from across the world. They see, murmur some complaints, have a darshan and go away. The temple management is in the hands of the Tamil Nadu government led by Karunanidhi who is infamous for issuing insulting and sarcastic statements about Ram and Sita. But what about the millions of devotees living around Rameshwaram? We have seen nationwide agitations for and against reservations but people have never demonstrated to save rivers or cleanse temples. There is an organisation in Tamil Nadu with a Hindu tag that objected to a dress worn by an actress at a public function. They said it hurt Hindu sentiments. But these Hindus never get hurt when Sanskrit is abolished or the Hindu population declines or when poor Hindus are converted to other religions. Hypocritical Hindus worship Durga for Shakti, Saraswati for knowledge and Lakshmi for prosperity. But the same Hindu also commits female foeticide in large numbers. And this is true for other religious communities equally. True, there are organisations opposing it and spreading awareness and this has provided positive results. But foes of the girl child abound. In Gaumukh, the source of Ganga, pilgrims leave bindis, plastic bags, incense sticks and other non-perishable items after the puja to 'absolve' themselves of all their sins. Should we blame the government alone if the glacier is shrinking and the heavenly place defining the solitude of divinity looks as if it has been defiled by the devotees themselves? The republic is not just about casting votes, that too at less than 50 per cent roughly along caste lines. Republic is the active participation of people in their own affairs with righteousness as the benchmark of decisions and Gandhi's talisman as a touchstone. It calls for rising above immediate self-interest. That decides the levels of happiness in a society, not bank balances and a mention in Fortune 500 lists. Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana was a great poet and benefactor of the poor and needy. Every evening, a large number of people would visit him seeking help. He would refuse none, but always looked down while giving alms. Once a gentleman asked why do you not even glance at the person who is receiving the money? He replied: “Denhaar koi aur hai, devat hai din rain, log bharam mo pe karein, tase neeche nain (“The real giver is someone else [God], but people perceive I am the one. Hence the eyes look down in embarrassment!). It's bliss to have such humility and it is this pure heart that sanctifies a republic and raises her people's happiness level. The republic thrives on the spirit of giving. Everyone says everything should be done by government and everyone seems to be dissatisfied with everything - municipal corporators, parliamentarians, officers, doctors and drivers. The crowd in religious places is hardly seen to be carrying the responsibility of applying in the outside world what they obtained inside the congregation hall. No one says hate others, yet hate spreads astonishingly. Intolerance increases intolerance and accumulation of ill-gotten wealth further whets the appetite. This is the time when the people of the republic should seriously come together to find way for eliminating religious intolerance and hate based on ideological apartheid. Recently a step was taken in this direction with religious leaders having a global presence and appeal sharing the dais for exactly this purpose – strengthening peace and plurality and resolving conflicts. Led by Swami Dayananda Saraswati, the day-long deliberations saw Sri Sri Ravishankar, the Dalai Lama, Swami Ramdev, Deoband's Mohammad Madani, Mumbai's Archbishop Oswald Gracious and of course former President Abdul Kalam. Such efforts need peoples' support if the republic has to live its ideals. Once we saw JP movement. It failed. Gandhians have become merely sarkari jholawalas. The last hope lies in those who would unshackle themselves from burden of historical sins and write a fresh new republican order to throw off the fossilised system and its offshoots. The new rebellious generation, already showing signs of revolt and free from the colonial mindset and obsolete ritualism, shall create a new path like Adi Sankara , with just one religion in heart - the good of humanity and elimination of the unrepentant wicked. Trust your tricolour, its going to happen before we leave the world.

My Bharat Ratna goes to the unsung jawan

17 Jan 2008, 1301 hrs IST

The secularists are the most sadistic people on this earth. In a poll on Bharat Ratna, they have included a Hindu hater M F Hussain, along with other money-minting self-obsessed rich people. Money decides definitely. In Sanskrit, an old proverb says: "All the virtues depend on the gold you have." None of the politicians would have a friend from the middle class or low income groups and their benefactors all come from the black marketing section. Arrogant to the hilt and scheming like D-company, they don't see anything beyond counting notes and votes and keep preparing for the next fraud in elections. They live on public money, from the day they enter this 'nation-building corporate business of politics' which needs no investment except words and gives high returns in form of bungalows (even when they actually don't need more than a SFS apartment) and money bags. Their birthday bashes are a scandal and their 'national outlook' never crosses the brick walls of their party offices. Even Ratan Tata and Sachin Tendulkar have earned their pound of glory and public applause. They are there every day on the front page and for a good reason. Their money is unfathomable and often one hears of their battle with chartered accountants on how to manage their colossal sums of money. Now all that they need is a peaceful happy life in their dreamlands - but not the ones that has been snatched from poor farmers of Nandigram and Singur. Why should they encroach on the territory meant for the servers of the nation and not for those who have extracted their share? Hence my Bharat Ratna goes to the valiant Indian soldier. He lives and dies for the nation, for all of us. Like the Ganga, his life is a saga that defines welfare and security for the rich and poor, for the high and the low, for a scholar extraordinary to the illiterate fellow countrymen without boundaries and discrimination. He is not rebellious to take the reins of the nation in his hands to eliminate the rogues from parliamentary democracy, but he defends and obeys the Constitution in the most impressive and exemplary manner. He is the real saviour of Bharat, a Ratna indeed. Having conducted the Indus festival for eight years I have seen Indian jawans in the bone chilling temperature of minus 40 to minus 60 standing straight on the defence post. It was only during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's rule that George Fernandes as defence minister provided proper hospital services including CAT scans in Siachen. Earlier, IAS babus were deciding how and what facilities jawans on those dangerous snow-bound heights should get without ever visiting the region themselves. Vajpayee and George have both risen above petty politics and endeared themselves to the common Indian as statesmen. During Pokhran -2 and the Kargil victory, their leadership shone with the Jai Jawan spirit. But they remain exceptions.
The truth is that jawans have to depend on politicians endlessly. Even today the policies affecting their decorations, pensions, retirement schemes and post-retirement benefits are in knots. Their 78 fellow jawans are languishing in Pakistan jails since the 1971 war, but it's not a priority for any government to ensure their release. Suppose a politician’s child was behind bars in a foreign land, the entire state's power would have been put at stake to ensure a safe return. But since jawans are mortals of a lesser order, their voices receive no hearing in the corridors of power. Their victories and sacrifices are talked about by the common people. They fight without complaints and do not let grudges against bureaucratic injustices linger, for the sake of the motherland. In Kashmir, while going to have a look at Kishan Ganga and Neelam Valley, I saw what a day in a jawan’s life in a terror-stricken valley looks like: The jawans get up at five; prepare to clear the roads, checking if jihadis have hidden any explosives, so that traffic can be allowed to pass from six onwards. Their breakfast and lunch is prepared before sunrise and handed to them - a few puris and alu sabzi. The whole day is spent with a constant vigil demanding utmost caution. With a 30 kg plus bullet-proof jacket and an equally heavy AK 47, with a water bottle hung on the side and a full load of ammunition, our jawan keeps vigil and kills the traitors with alacrity. Still, so much poison is spread against him in the valley that he is advised not to take even a glass of water from a nearby village. The whole day is spent as a stranger in his own land, with no one around having respect and sympathy for the warrior. And he knows well that despite having spilled his blood to protect the locals and the nation's territory, he is not allowed, constitutionally - thanks to Article 370 - to buy an inch of land here. If by any chance something goes wrong, based on wrong information by local informers, he is hanged alive in the media and by human right activists who take a special pride in highlighting the terrorists 'pains' to earn dollar coated awards from Rome and New York. In Partapur, the base camp for Siachen, a colonel told me a true story of a soldier trapped at a glacier. In that killing weather, a pilot saw an SOS signal from down below and reached there at great risk. What he saw froze him: an officer was trapped down deep in a crevasse and was crying for help. A rope was sent down, but he was unable to use his hands to grab it. A buddy offered to go down and pull him out risking his own life. But by that time his body had already got glued to the icy walls of the crevasse. The pilot tried to use his knife to extricate the skin and bind him with a rope to pull him sitting in the helicopter. But it meant skinning the trapped soldier. The weather was swiftly turning worse and the copter had to leave. The end for the trapped soldier was slow and indescribably painful. He was asking with tears in his eyes that he be shot dead to save him the excruciating pain. Lieutenant Saurabh Kalia of 4 Jat regiment laid down his life in the Kargil war at the age of 22. He was captured along with his patrol party of five jawans and tortured by the Pakistan army for 22 days but none of them opened his mouth. Pakistanis inflicted burns on these Indian officers with cigarettes, pierced their ears with hot rods, removed their eyes before puncturing them and breaking most of the bones and teeth. They even chopped off various limbs and private organs of the Indian soldiers besides inflicting unimaginable physical and mental torture. After 22 days of torture, the brave soldiers were ultimately shot dead. A detailed post-mortem report is with the Indian Army. Nothing happened afterwards. The father of Lt Kalia has been trying to collect enough signatures to submit a petition ( before the UN Human Rights Commission. This is something that the Centre should have done but Indian millionaires are busy launching calendars of bikini-clad girls, spending millions on yacht parties and fighting for Bhajji. The situation is the same, if not worse, on the Northeast frontier. The jawans are fighting a battle that hardly gets an honourable mention in the media or in government's achievements. Terrorists in the Northeast are supported openly by the local church (NSCN-IM) and ISI, like the ULFA whose leaders operate from Bangladesh. On the one hand, the government engages the terrorists in peace talks and allows them to roam free; on the other hand, the Army is deployed to protect the citizens. Our jawan might have been born in a village in Bihar or Kerala or Manipur, he could be a proud Ladakhi, Naga or a Sikh, but he stands out as an undiluted wholesome Indian spirit and an invincible symbol of patriotism. With Republic Day drawing near, lets celebrate the Jai Jawan's victorious colours with a peoples' Bharat Ratna conferred on him.

Nation yet to regain its honour

9 Jan 2008, 1611 hrs IST

The whole nation stood as a rock and the media donned peoples' colour in slamming the unfair Aussies, thus recreating a solidarity we saw during Kargil when the Tricolour was unfurled atop the recaptured Batalik hills. Great news. Team India has won the media match and the emotional war against the rabidly racist west's prejudiced mindset - this time involving the best preserved game played by the former natives of the Queen's land - cricket. The source and the character of the game apart, it was a question of a fellow Indian being subjected to an unfair punishment by an umpire described as the one leading the pack of wild dogs by Australian commentators. This spirit underlines our identity as Indians defining our nationalism. But wasn't the glamour, the money involved and the suddenness of the decision more responsible for an eruption of this national euphoria? An elite class was hurt the most and it imposed its feelings through a media that reports about and caters to the rich and affluent classes. After all in an India where the majority lives in villages and indigenous games are more popular even now and the struggle to cross the poverty line is a matter of greater honour, how many Indians understand what cricket is all about and appreciate its nuances? Some time back it was Shilpa Shetty who represented the honour of the Tricolour when she was the target of racist abuse in Britain. But the controversy actually helped her get more assignments. So what exactly constitutes a point of honour that we should fight for with all our might in Shilpa and Bhajji's case? The same honourable minister who waxed eloquent on Bhajji's plight as BCCI president is responsible for importing wheat at an astronomical and scandalous price from foreign farmers but refuses the same price to Indian toilers, resulting in a number of suicides in India. The statistics released by the government show that "the number of suicides by farmers were 17,060 in2006 as against 17,131 in 2005. While Maharashtra topped the list of farmers' suicides with 4,453 cases, Andhra Pradesh came second with 2,607, followed by Karnataka (1,720), Chhattisgarh (1,483) and Madhya Pradesh (1,375). West Bengal (1,189) and Kerala (1,124) were placed sixth and seventh". Of the 17,060 farmers who committed suicide, 14,664 were men. I have never seen any channel or newspaper taking up the issue of farmers' suicides and their misery or for that matter any issue affecting rural India with the same verve and firmness as shown in Harbhajan Singh's case. In a nation where punishment to one sportsman becomes a matter of honour for a thousand million people, 17,060 farmers committing suicide does not become a matter of honour for any one. And these farmers commit suicide not because of any firang but solely because of faulty government policies and the government's single-minded focus on the rich and the corporate world. No one screams out in the press - it's a matter of shame. Until we create a situation where farmers are happy, we shall boycott dirty politicians' programmes. No one will ever say so because neither do the farmers have a voice in Parliament nor do they entertain the ruling elite as do the cricketing "heroes" and poster boys. So what makes a matter of honour and who decides it? More than twenty five thousand Reangs were forced to flee from Mizoram because they refused to convert. Finally, they had to take shelter in Tripura. No one reported this or held special discussions on this. Kashmiri Hindus have been living without hope and have been virtually de-listed from every forum deciding the fate of their homeland. The secular red haven of West Bengal has the most women (6.605) committing suicide, yet the debate is on the ideological confusion among senior communists. Our honourable Prime Minister is going to China next week with hopes of strengthening our friendship. But China is busy preparing to win more gold medals in the coming Beijing Olympics. In the 2004 Athens Olympics, China won 63 medals, including 32 golds and 17 silver. India finished 66th among 71 countries, with a lone bronze. A matter of honour and celebration of Indian might and talent? Why did the mothers of the valiant soldiers who sacrificed their lives defending Parliament feel so insulted that they returned the gallantry awards presented to their sons. Honour for whom? Lakhs of people gather in the capital to protest the destruction of the greatest heritage site mankind can proclaim - an Adam's bridge or Ram Setu - and it shakes up no one.
A matter of democratic honour? A nation which feels honoured to dishonour it own wealth of heritage and culture and treats its own people with contempt and eulogises colonial values can't gain respect even in a tiny banana republic. The entire world's wealth is like a useless sand dune if self pride and core values defining national continuity of civilization are missing. A Pravasi Bharatiya's inspiring story... And here is a true story of a great Pravasi Bharatiya, Bob Harilela, which should be gifted to everyone participating in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in the capital. Bob told me this in his posh Mumbai flat, recounting the time when his mother sent him on a two month tour of India to familiarise him with his ancestral country. Bob came, toured Delhi, Jaipur and Mumbai, and returned disgusted. How was the tour Bob, his mother asked in their palatial home known as the Buckingham Palace of Hong Kong. Bob replied, "Mom, please never send me again to that country. I belong to China, that's my passport, What do I have to do with India? Its dirty, too crowded, people don't know English, please, I don't want..." Before he could finish, his mother said: "Ok Bob I shall do what you wish but for a second go to the other side of the wall and tell me what you see there." Bob was perplexed. He went to the other corner, saw his face in the huge wall mirror, and came back. "Mom, have you gone crazy?" he asked. His mother queried: "Bob, what did you see there?" He gave up and said: "It was me. I saw my image, don't you know." "I know Bob. Your face has Hindustan written in large which none can erase. Whatever your passport, or your nationality, you will always be known by you face, by your Indian origins. Remember this." That was the day Bob was turned towards his Punya Bhumi Bharat, and since then he comes India every year contributing to the growth and well being of its people in his own humble way. His house has a temple and every child is taught the Hindu values of love, compassion and universality. The moral of the story is that unless we make our home great and the grand Indian dream is realised and until we stand firmly on our feet with military might and prosperous society honouring her roots and heritage, the nation would not have regained the honour it deserves in real terms.

Hope, beyond the obvious

2 Jan 2008, 1122 hrs IST

My friend Datta Hosbale usually sounds optimistic trying to minimise my recurring cycles of disillusionment about the future but the SMS he sent me on the eve of New Year 2008 was something so unique that it made me share it with my readers. In Hindi it says, Parindo ko milegi manzil ek din, yeh faile hue unke par bolte hain, wahi log rahte hain khamosh aksar, zamane mein jinke hunar bolte hain . What the poet wants to say is something closer to this – the power of silence is usually more eloquent for those who have inner strength and a strong will to reach the destination. And here is a fabulous story that assures us about the great future we shall certainly have –India is on an unstoppable path of glory and happiness in spite of all that wrongs we witness, more through a media that unfortunately uses the misery, trivia and all that is bad to increase its circulation and TRP ratings. One such event that almost skipped media attention was a centenary celebration of a young, vibrant and creative people's organisation I was privileged to witness. If the Indian media celebrated the rise of Vikram Pandit to head Citigroup, the renouncement of worldly pleasures and lucrative careers by fifteen young Hindu professionals from the US and the UK, joining a revolutionary Hindu order of ochre-robed sannyasins of the Swaminarayan sect, was taken quite coolly by the sect popularly known as BAPS (Bochasan wasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha) and completely ignored by newspapers and channels. This extraordinary sect with modern ideas about Hindu resurgence has crossed an astounding number of 785 highly qualified Hindu monks serving the poor, illiterate and disadvantaged Indians with a firm, unapologetic Hindu colour. The BAPS were awarded two entries in the Guinness Book of World Records by its central committee member Michael Whitty who specially flew in to Ahmedabad to present the certificates to Pramukh Swami, the head of the sect at their centenary celebrations. The first record is for having built the largest functional comprehensive Hindu temple Akshardham in Delhi and the second one, in the name of Pramukh Swami, is for having consecrated the largest number of Hindu temples, 713 precisely, in five continents across the oceans. Comparatively, the Swaminarayan sect is new, formed in December 1801 by an ascetic Ghanshyam who later rose to be revered as Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He was born in UP, in village Chhapaiya near Ayodhya in April , 1781 and as a divinely gifted boy roamed free since his childhood in the Himalayas and Kailas Manasaorvar, finding ultimately his guru and karmabhumi in Gujarat. It was the British colonial rule in India and Christian missionaries were converting gullible and innocent Hindus through various tactics. In one such incident, a Christian missionary was spell-bound with Swaminarayan by his brilliance expose of Vaishnav philosophy and he returned empty-handed. This is considered as a major event in saving Gujarati people from a planned mass conversion move. Later, a stream of the sect formed BAPS in 1907 and gave it a significance, relevant to contemporary times. But the best part about it is the fact that while holding fort for the age old Vedic ethos and Hindu civilisation in an unapologetic manner, the movement has been able to attract the brilliant young minds sparkling with new ideas and innovations in socio-cultural as well as religious arenas. They do everything: From temple cleaning to washing clothes and learning Sanskrit to understanding Vedas and other Hindu scriptures to painting and applying computer sciences in order to help spiritual advancement. They have some of the best creative artists as sannyaasins and devoted youngsters outside the pale of ochre-robed order. Like Ritesh Gadia, ex-IIM, Bangalore, and Sanjay Parikh, M.Tech. from IIT, Kanpur, who help design and execute creations like Akshardham and make films for Imax theatres running shows in a number of temples to explain the deep philosophies of Hinduism. And they say no, a strict no to any caste-based discrimination. All are equal and special drives are undertaken to spread literacy, life sciences, medical help in Dalit and tribal areas. The young monks run adult education centres, mobile dispensaries, hospitals, schools, de-addiction centres and religious awakening campaigns all over. The women, youth and children's groups have a special task on their hands like special campaigns for de-addiction and mobilising support whenever there is a natural or man-made calamity. They provided help in a big way during the Gujarat earthquake and tsunami, too, down south.
But does this sect cater to mostly Gujaratis? Yes, it has a lot to do with their inception like the Bengali touch in Ramakrishna Mission and a Malayalam colour to Amma's movement. Yet, their vision and actions remain pan-Indian in such a thrilling way that almost every one of their programme, essentially a religious one, has a Tricolour and a touch of Bharat bhakti . They have superbly juxtaposed the saffron spirit with the Tricolour, linking devotion to the Dharma with glory of the nation – a unique expression to Rashtra Dharma - the Hindu nationalism. Each step and act of theirs looks like a celebration of life – no place for despondency or disillusionment any where. The most striking thing about a Swaminarayan place is cleanliness, humility, and perfection to the last detail. They have their own publishing and printing unit with best of the facilities. The programmes like the one I attended at Ahmedabad with 2.75 lakh devotees from India and abroad, was all planned and executed by monks and devotees, from layout plans to the creation of a mega-star film-studio like stage for the performances. And all of them remained just aloof to the visits of any so-called VIP or the big guns in their functions. None ever asked if a political leader visited the Swami or attended the discourse. Everyone was simply glued to see their Pramukh Swami and dedicated all his and her efforts, achievements and creations to him. The surprising fact for those who look at such movements as a can-be-discarded farce or simply Babaji hypocrisies is that an octogenarian Swami, 87 years of age, has been attracting the young, freshly graduated or undergrads, engineers, doctors, CAs, attorneys, who had an exciting new life lying before them, with salaries that would be the envy of any professional, simply vying with each other to devote their life for the cause of the society. There have been a number of such cases where the only son, with no other sister or brother in the family finally coming to Pramukh Swami to get permission to live as an ascetic. The first condition to admit such aspirants is that the boy, willing to devote his life as a Hindu monk should have a happy consent of both the parents, mother first and father too. Unless it happens, none is allowed to get ordained as a monk. Presently there are 787 monks, out of them 37 work in US, 47 in UK, 20 in African countries,02 in Canada and the rest are in various parts of India. And see what marvels have these sannyasins created. Akshardham, declared the world's largest temple on December 17, is 356 ft wide, 141 ft high, with an area of 86,342 sq. ft. The grand, ornately hand-carved stone temple has been built without structural steel in five years, employing 11,000 artisans and volunteers. The temple is not just a religious place with idols of Shiva, Durga and Swaminarayan, but it also showcases prominently through Imax theatre and a Walt Disney style exhibition seen through a boat ride, a unique and breathtaking view of ancient India's glorious achievements in science, technology, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, geometry and war sciences. Heroes Park in the temple shows life-size statues of Indian heroes like Guru Govind Singh, Shivaji, Maharana Pratap and Subramanyam Bharati. Their London temple, considered as an eighth wonder in Europe is visited by more than 480,000 visitors annually. And the temples are also a centre of family conventions, language classes, parenting seminars, blood donation drives and sports competitions. Those who feel disillusioned seeing the politicians failing an otherwise great nation, should turn their eyes away from Delhi and state capitals and try to look at such movements which have emerged stronger, contributing positively for everyone’s welfare without any state help, rather in spite of a state polity that thrives on distancing from Hinduism and placating non-Hindus. They are creating a new, Abhinav Bharat, a resurgent India that's creative, compassionate and friendly to all. Such firebrand youngsters, with a spark in their eyes and an unfathomable love for their motherland are working in many organisatioins, amongst students, tribals, through religious orders and through non-religious ones, from Bangalore to Bomdila and Leh to Port Blair. Aren’t these elements the real Brahmas of India, Bharat Bhagya Vidhata ?

Saffron Surge

25 Dec 2007, 0918 hrs IST

When my book titled Saffron Surge was released recently in Delhi and Chennai, I didn't realise that the signs to further reinforce my hopes for a nationalist upsurge sweeping the country would shine so brightly from Gandhi Nagar.
Modi had to win. There was no alternative. The noises opposing him, representing secular 'civility', often used the most ugly, rather abusive language who hoped for a last minute 'miracle' to see him lose. It didn't happen. And so, for the fourth time BJP and for the third time, Modi is ruling Gujarat. The impact of the win was spontaneously tremendous. As if another nuke test, a Pokaran III has occurred, making nationalists happy and proud.
Gujarat turned India
I was in Rameshwaram, just outside the world famous temple when the news of Modi’s win started pouring in. And people over there, the last tip of our southern side turned ecstatic, as if overpowered with a saffron surge. The enthusiasm and joy on the faces of pilgrims and local Tamils, none having anything to do with Gujarat’s politics was showing up and they loved it. The SMSes I got, a dozen a minute were mostly from outside Gujarat, with the same euphoric sense of victory that had crossed all boundaries and barriers.
The saffron in Gujarat was transformed instantly into a national victory of some sorts which was difficult to explain but easy to feel. Gujarat suddenly became India for a moment and the best of psephologists too forgot there was a Himachal battling the same ballot war. No, Gujarat was the issue, the election and the battleground between ideologies that will now be reflected on a larger screen in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls.
After all Modi, a provincial Chief Minister had to be combated by the supreme leader of the UPA and Congress president and that defined the war zones. She and her son both proved a non-starter in an election that demanded real grit and mettle politically.
A vilified hero
Modi. Narendrabhai.
Never in our post-Independence political history, a person was so vilified, abused and attacked as him and his rise and rise again has also been an unprecedented phenomenon that is bound to change the colour and content of political dialogue at the national level. His appeal to the youth and women is seen to be believed, and I too couldn't trust my eyes when I saw the younger element overwhelmingly present in his meetings. He has certainly caught the imagination of the Gen X. Compare it with the flag bearers of secularism.
The hate and poison injected in the rallies and political discourses of V P Singh, Lalu, Paswan and leaders of the Left and Dravida Munnetra variety divide, fragment and institutionalise animosities for each other. Such seculars would get their vote share by creating a ghost of the rivals' ideologies and organisations.
Fragmentation, bending backwards to bow before sectarian fissiparous tendencies, hosting foreigners as voters, humiliating Hindus as a tool to attract non-Hindu votes. This describes the brigade that vehemently opposed BJP's ascendancy in Gujarat.
But to the local voters, Modi symbolised a leader who is harsh on corrupt, non-performer, terrorist and communal hate monger. People believe he brought Narmada waters, put new life in the otherwise dried up stream of Sabarmati, powered villages and helped turn deserts into green lands, implemented new innovative schemes for women and girl child, brought administration under effective control, never hesitated to assert his ideological colours and took pains to invite unbelievable amount of foreign and domestic investment in the state thus earning kudos from fiercest critics as well.
What else do you expect a Chief Minister to deliver? Before elections, there were reports to paint him as arrogant, who doesn't help friends, and keeps a contemptuous distance from Pariwar organisations. And now that he has won, his detractors say his accessibility would be rather more difficult than ever as he is now on 'fourteenth level of clouds'. Usual things that are always said about the persons one doesn't like. But, whom would you believe, people who voted him or those who deserted him?
Danger zone
So Modi showed his mettle. Done. Now what next?
Definitely by astounding his rivals so neatly, Modi has entered the most dangerous zone of his career. His foes are bitter and shall wait every inch to bring him down, every step he takes would be watched and monitored too closely not to give him a space for manoeuvring, his commitment would be on a perpetual fire –test and having reached a climax even before he enters a higher play field, and expectations from him going wild, the sensitive question - how shall he protect himself from the ‘feared fatal fallout of fame’, can only be left in his deft hands and to the will of god. He has to succeed for a greater cause and for that he should be certainly having those friends around him who can criticise him and sound him caution in his high-profile path of deliverance.
A Modi win has also put in perspective the issue of leadership India wants. On one side are those who are pusillanimous, can’t even keep their offices and airports clean and citizen-friendly, provide security to the patriotic, have stinking personal riches but remain unconcerned to the public services, institutions and peoples' woes, who won’t touch a dilapidated footpath dargah but take enormous pride in demolishing an icon of faith and Hindu heritage like Ram Sethu, provide communal budget and reservations for a vote bank and look apologetic when Supreme Court confirms capital punishment to a traitor.
Leaders with these attributes make a solid block of Ayodhya haters, Godhra erasers and mechanical silencers to the cries of Kashmiri Hindu refugees. They are popularly known as seculars. Powerful people in media and governance.
On the other side, the Saffron ones want equal rights and duties of all citizens without considering or discriminating on the basis of their ways of worship, elimination of the majority-minority syndrome, ensuring none is appeased, honourable and safe return of Kashmiri Hindus and deleting the divisive provision of 370 from Constitution, taking up the ruthless elimination of terrorists and their protective modules, paving way to prosperity and an invincible security. In the nutshell, the fight that has been unleashed is between Saffronites and the Sohrabuddinites.
India has to emerge stronger and wealthier in this war of nerves. Especially on economic front - that's the demand of Hindutva.
'No Gopal with empty stomach' and 'build body before mastering Geeta' are the old sayings authenticated by spiritual masters. Every day in RSS shakhas, Swayamsewaks offer their salutations to Mother India with a resolve on their lips to make nation supremely prosperous and glorious. Path to Nirvana passes through road to Lakshmi! Hence the nation should unshackle itself from the yawning gap between planning and applied vision. Strengthening manufacturing sector, enhancing quality of science education and producing more engineers and researchers in pure sciences, improving the standards of research and revolutionising the entire gamut of higher education with better facilitated and equipped universities are the immediate tasks before us.
Who is looking into these areas? With China growing at 9% and having an investment/GDP ratio at around 40%, we need to take a serious note of our standing in next ten and twenty years. Shall we remain mired in petty political games or the national outlook be allowed to override smaller concerns? That's the question India should be ready to answer.
The collective resolve
It's definitely not Modi's fight alone but it belongs to the entire patriotic forces represented beyond the pale of communal divides and language barriers. The proverbial time for the resurrection of Somnath has been brought to this juncture by the sacrifices of thousands of workers and leaders. The talks that Modi has risen bigger than the organisation he belongs to, hurt him most.
Let’s hope the march that has further fortified in Gujarat becomes a march of India, with just one cause in sight –glory of Bharat.

Obnoxious pandering

21 Dec 2007, 0010 hrs IST,

If the desired doesn't come on a platter, divide. The simple way. Threat to part, communalise the most secular aspects of life, inflame and see the results resting on a couch till the final hour arrives. That's the Jinnah theory, propounded by the non-practising Muslim, who created and led a frenzy resulting in our motherland's Partition. Whatever he would have been before his calculated steps towards becoming Qaid-e-Azam should be weighed against the fact that his creation, Pakistan, has been singularly responsible for an unprecedented bloodbath of Hindus post-1947. If a pre-Partition Congress agreed to Jinnah's theory of Partition to have Nehru realise his wish to unfurl the Tricolor on the ramparts of the Red Fort, the post-Partition Congress is creating the same Jinnah model with politics dividing the national spirit and violating the Constitution. The proposal to have a separate fifteen per cent quota in the 11th Five Year Plan for minorities (read Muslims) is the most sinister kind of an action that makes us look a semi-theocratic despotic state. In fact, its content and import is so embarrassingly pampering, aimed at soliciting votes of a particular community that patriotic and reasonable Indian Muslims should stand up and say no to this farce that is bound to further ghettoize them. The UPA government says the separate communal award is necessary for minorities as they are a weaker section, hence, need extra support. But has the Constitution given any clear indication about who shall be deemed as minorities in India? The truth is that a dithering and desolate UPA government has brought this proposal only for the Muslims keeping the general elections in mind that may be announced soon. Even otherwise who forms a minority and where is obfuscated in the law, yet to be defined clearly. Recently, the Allahabad High Court gave a judgment saying Muslims are not a minority in UP and, later, the Punjab High Court said that Sikhs do not form a minority in Punjab. By the same yardstick, can we say Muslims are a minority in J&K? The way the government has tried to placate a particular religious group bodes ill for the social fabric and polity of the nation. If the extra financial provisions are not just for the Muslims, how shall the government decide about the minority status of any applicant that may come before its various ministries for availing the benefits of this obnoxious provision? Shall it accept Hindus as minorities in J&K, Mizoram or Meghalaya? Has it followed this line of action anytime in the last sixty years with regard to the formation of minority commissions in such states? Secondly, do the deserving weaker sections of Indian society need to be determined only on the communal basis? What about the weaker sections amongst tribals, scheduled castes and women? A ruling coalition that is headed and remote-controlled by a Christian person of foreign origin should have been doubly cautious not to bruise the national secular fabric using the state instrument, which is expected see all the citizens without any discrimination as per the constitutional principles. On the contrary, this coalition, run by so-called secular minority leaders has been making assaults on Hindu icons, symbols of faith and signature posts of their collective memory ad nauseam as if hurting Hindus doesn't make an iota of a difference. Keep on counting – increasing Haj subsidy but silence on Kailas Yatra, special reservations in government jobs for Muslims (in Andhra, though it was struck down later by the Supreme Court), special reservation to Muslims in Aligarh University, special financial corporations for Muslims, special educational scholarships for non-Hindu minorities (read Muslims), honouring Husain by a central university in the presence of the Vice-President though criminal cases are pending against him for depicting Hindu goddesses as nudes, slow on Afjzal's hanging and keeping the file on him in abeyance in Home Ministry. It pays to be a non-Hindu in this Hindustan! The merchants of vote banks forget that nowhere on this earth extraordinary support has ever helped a community unless there is an inner urge in its members to acquire new knowledge. The myth of Muslim backwardness falls flat before the fact that in most of the areas their talent is well recognized and their growth outshines any other community.
If Bollywood has become a Khanwood and industry, media, politics, ruling elite show an extraordinary presence of Muslims at every top level, it shows that they were nowhere discriminated against and rose to dizzy heights from humble beginnings as naturally as any other Hindu would do. In fact, the weaker sections of the Hindu society suffer more because of this Muslim appeasement policy. The share that would otherwise go to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes actually gets diverted to Muslim vote-bank nurture plans. Secondly, what have the great Muslims themselves done to help their community grow? Except a few examples, there is hardly a concerted effort by Muslim leaders to start centres of excellence and help propel engines of growth and liberalism amongst the co-religionists. One has to see Urdu papers and some special reports in certain secular newspapers showing the angst and frustration of common Muslims against their so-called leaders' callous and utterly corrupt behaviour. No Haj committee in India is free from serious corruption charges leveled against high-profile Muslim leaders and chairpersons of such committees and even relatives and brothers of the man who attacked Parliament and earned sympathies of secular human right activists are fighting with each other over the booty collected in the name of protecting Afzal's interests! Can you give one example of any Islamic country, which has shown a free atmosphere and brilliance in the fields of art, culture, music, science, and literature or egalitarian democratic values? Arab poetry and literature was globally recognised in the pre-Islamic period and so were their advancements in science and arts. All that they can show today as a mark of Islamic pride are the museums depicting wartime hardware and Jihadi achievements. Excellence, brilliance and growth belong to those who show a focused perseverance in a liberal atmosphere of unhindered freedom emanating from the strength of a civilisation. Ask Shah Rukh or Azim Premji. The taxpayer's money should be spent without any favour or discrimination, that's the credo of a Hindu-majority nation. It's only in Muslim-majority areas that just the reverse gets applied. Are the ugly Indians of vote-bank politics trying to convert the seat of governance itself? Those who vow to Islamise society and feel pride in their gun-culture have got blood on their hands and rust in their minds. India is not only a hub centre of the flowering of Muslim talent, it also provides a platform for experiments, innovations and unshackling oneself from fossilised ideas. The reason for it is quite obvious. But Mullahdom abhors all that. Hence a Sania is forced to apologise for something that was hardly offensive to the religious icon. And a Tasleema is forced to leave her homeland. These Mullahs have never asked a terrorist to apologise for giving a bad name to their religion or misusing mosques. The other point that should be pondered upon by Muslims is about the criterion that makes them demand minority status. In fact, more than ninety per cent of them are originally converted from Hinduism, same race, same blood, same ancestors, same attire, same language, land and culture. Merely a change in the way of worship can’t be the sole criteria of minority status. The only minorities in India are Jews and Parsis. They never demanded a special status, never asked for reservation yet produced the best of stalwarts in various fields. Tata, Godrej, Field Marshall Manekshaw and Gen. Jacob are just a few examples. When Parsis were offered reservation during the making of our Constitution, they politely refused and said India has offered them shelter when they were prosecuted in their own homeland by Muslims, and they promised to live here like sugar in a pot of milk. That's enough, sir, they said. And they proved their words too. It’s time we should unburden the nation from this minority-majority syndrome. Let the Indian identity over ride all other identities. Every Indian, belonging to any faith, belongs to a proud and confident Indian majority. Is that not enough?

Power of purpose

12 Dec 2007, 2142 hrs IST,

The purpose of our living must be defined. At least to our own conscience. Is it to earn more and live a rich life? What's happiness, pray? Not having to work for anything and getting wishes and desires fulfilled at the stroke of our tiny finger? Or to work continuously to earn a dry bread? I have seen those who have a million working relentlessly at the cost of the time they would have spent with their families to make more millions and a billionaire trying to multiply wealth and financial empire as a sacred mission of his entire life. And exactly these are the people who commit the biggest frauds in their life, some are caught and some get medals for their services because they were able to ensure a fool-proof cover-up of their misdeeds all their lifetime. They make a nation's spine And then there are others, who earn a first-class first degree from IIT, Powai or Madras and then devote their lives for the development of the tribals and the disadvantaged of the remote areas without ever knowing what a Kingfisher calendar is or the 'significance' of Parliamentary debates and an election fever. And those who may not have the un-countable sacks of millions, but for a genuine public good, they take on the mightiest corporate empires exposing their frauds at the risk of their life. They never get bungalows in Lutyens Delhi nor are invited to the fabulous banquets at Mogul gardens. But they do make the nation's spine. A spine that speaks for the teeming millions. Those who are people in spite of those who are netas and their sacks. You only live once in the present birth so what's the need to compromise? No power can overpower the fragrance of an honest soul ultimately, no matter the travails and punishments he faces to remain committed to his ideals. Yet we see a circus of spineless crawlers conducting workshops on how to stand erect! So a Shyama Prasad Mukherjee gave his life demanding the scrapping of two flags and two systems in Jammu and Kashmir. He had a purpose, a life full of nationalism. Vajpayee did have a purpose when he finally had the Pokharan II and stood erect against sanctions of more than thirty-six nations including the USA. Captain Hanifuddin and Sqdn. Leader Ajay Ahuja, too, had a purpose which was bigger than their material life and comforts. They defended the motherland and gave up their lives for it. Indira Gandhi had a purpose when she stood firmly against the US pressures, did the Pokharan I and liberated Bangladesh. Those who made the Islamic arrogance of the Pakistani army surrender before a saffron nation on December 16th 1971, too, shared the same purpose -ensuring India's security and teaching an enemy an unforgettable lesson. Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw, Gen. Jacob-Farj-Rafael Jacob, Air Chief Marshall Sardar Arjan Singh and our soldiers deserve the nation's salutes for ensuring Pakistan's surrender. But how many of us would really commemorate the anniversary falling next week? We are a nation run by such patriots that even after thirty-six years of that great victory we have not built a single Victory Tower in Delhi. The soldiers are made to march past a memorial which was erected to honour the defenders of the British Empire. It's a shame that the Jai Jawan Jyoti is lit under the canopy of a structure that reminds of those sahebs who hanged Indian freedom fighters. That structure is called India Gate. Colonial memories Still, after sixty years, the 'gates' to India are colonial and nothing Swadeshi defines the brand Indian spirit in the capital which sells proudly the picture postcards of the blood-stained memorabilia of Viceroys and their sergeants. And all these are defended by the politician. Coming to a more mundane level, when we see a cavalcade of cars, with blaring sirens and gun-toting black cats looking at the poor citizens with a contempt, do we feel sympathies with the netaji sitting pretty in one of the black-filmed car thinking oh my, how much this man has to suffer for the purpose of serving people?, Or do we feel jealous of his status and power?
Purpose of our public figures What's the purpose of our politics and the instruments it possesses? We see great stalwarts and statesmen and criminals rubbing shoulders with each other, and each proclaiming his purpose is to serve the masses, to see the nation prosperous and strong. And to serve the people, they offer all sorts of sacrifices and get ready to face the consequences too, but with their resolve to serve being very strong, it's difficult to find even as an exception, a stalwart leaving the political jamborees saying it's getting too taxing for him or her to lead a normal happy life. Hence I bid adieu! It never happens. We see murderers, extortionists, scandalous financial managers 'serving' the cause of the nation, intermittently going in and out of the jail. For the last sixty years we have been continuously being served by those whose life mission was public good and the welfare of the poor. Yet the disparities have widened, we have never seen a single leader resolving to take back land snatched by neighbours, post-Independence, not a single airport can claim to have reached even a mile closer to an east Asian international or domestic airport, power supply is eerie in most of the states, public services in the doldrums, patriots are condemned to live as refugees, but illegal infiltrators are welcomed by those who had a constitutional responsibility to oust them. A media so driven by the rich and glamorous that a thousand farmers' suicide never attracted the attention that a single Jessica Lall murder did and killers and the victims are weighed against their religions and not on their innocence or offence. Was that the purpose of their living or the enterprise? Dying dreams Many of the youngsters joining the civil services have the dreamy purposes with lofty idealism in their eyes when they join the academy at Mussourie. Soon, they get seasoned. Like a seasoned wood, nothing touches their inner core any more to stop them becoming an instrument of the ugly heads. Ask a Bihar social activist, the 'cost' of marrying a suitable boy in the IAS; IPS is too high for a daughter's father. Many have exactly this purpose in mind when they work hard to join elite services. Like the power of an idea, purpose too, defines the character, methods and content of the voyager and his journey. Vivekananda had a purpose to spread the Vedanta world over and for that he dedicated his life. His power of purpose led him to glory and a place in history. Gandhi's power lay in his purpose and not in his frail body. The mountain man of Bihar, who cut the rocky heights to make a path for common people, was powered by the nobility of his purpose which was beyond the elections and a seat in the Assembly. This reminds me of the lines I read long back, attributed to Dr. Damon (Stanford), 'purpose is the intention to accomplish something that is at once meaningful to the self and of positive consequence to the world beyond the self.' Otherwise even an Osama has a purpose and so have a Musharraf and Dawood and a Maoist. They can't be put in the category of those noble souls having a purpose in their life. At best, to be most charitable they are simple mercenaries who invest in line of their aim with an art that demands a particular method and culture, in order to reap a harvest of pleasures and comfort. The public speeches, announcements and life styles are all tailor made to suite the expectations. Same is true about the MLAs and MPs who really work hard to register a win. All that they can muster is put at the stakes. They feel over-joyous when declared elected. Is it because the gods have finally ordained them to serve people? Ask a tea vendor and he would say- sir, they have got a bigger and a better chance to make money, and hence they are happy. The number of night shelters keeps on increasing, for once please try to see them after nine. Delhi, like many other metros, presents a shocking spectacle of poor, labour class spending deadly winter nights on footpaths, platforms, shanties built around railway lines and public toilets. Aren't they citizens of this nation? What's the purpose of a public life if we have continued with these Indian citizens' plight for the last six decades, while ensuring bungalows with acres of green lawns maintained at public expenses for a family of two or three 'nation-savers'? Choose a purpose The fact of the matter is no body; even the closest allies of the public figures believe that the principal purpose of their exercises is to serve the public. Some of the Indians must choose a purpose. A purpose that defines their lives through a resolve to cleanse the public life of these ugly crawlers and create an atmosphere of hope and justice. Those who helped enact the Right to Information Act -and those who work in villages for public awareness and a self-sustaining development model are such Indian souls. That power of purpose shall engine the materialisation of a real Indian dream.

Minister for hurt

When my friend TJS George, founder editor of Asiaweek titled his collection of political essays as 'Politics - The first refuge of scoundrels' no eyebrows were raised. Normally this is what people think about politicians. And their actions further reinforce such perceptions, though exceptions shall always remain. So, when the Supreme Court asked the central government why it was so adamant to remove one person from the directorship of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the state power looked silly and this too didn't surprise the people or the media. That the entire Union government would concentrate its energies to ensure the removal of one single individual from the post he is occupying through the government's order itself is a mockery of the entire governance and a sad reflection on the sincerity of rulers. The only other example of this nature can be cited of Shah Bano's, whose fault was that she was a Muslim and none of the Muslim organisations wanted her to get a meagre twenty-five rupees per month alimony. So, to nullify the Supreme Court's orders to this effect, the Rajiv Gandhi government brought a legislation in Parliament. That, too, triggered a debate on the rights and duties of the Supreme Court and this time, too, Parliament and the media are getting busy to debate the eternal question – which is supreme, Parliament or the judiciary? First we must pay left-handed compliments to the Union Minister of Health, Anbumani Ramadoss, who has never shown this kind of focussed zeal and resolve for establishing new hospitals and rejuvenating the AIIMS-like medical institutes scheme envisaged in the NDA rule during Sushma Swaraj's tenure as health minister. That would have eased the burden on the AIIMS, Delhi and provided quality healthcare in at least six major states. Nothing happened to that. Delhi is having some of the worst public hospitals and if it is to be believed, not a single public hospital has been opened here since 1966. All that we see is the continuous growth of new private nursing homes, hospitals and medical care centres, mostly catering to the rich and the famous. They look more like five-star hotels than a place of serious medical care and somehow manage to have a politician to inaugurate their money-making machines labelled as hospitals. So why should a politician bother to improve public hospitals, till he and his family gets free treatment in the five-star centres of healthcare?
Anbumani has weird ideas about healthcare, so in a sudden impulse he decided that doctors should be made to serve in rural areas for one year. On the face of it, the scheme sounds good, specially when we see a large number of medical practitioners acting more like butchers, forgetting the solemn oath that they have taken to serve the patients, but pray, what a doctor, that too a practitioner of allopathic system of medicine and surgery, would do in a rural area where the basic facilities of healthcare remain completely absent? In fact, the government should have focussed on the preventive healthcare structure banking more on time-tested Ayurvedic, Unani and nature care systems that are easily accessible for a common person while creating a sound and functional infrastructure for allopathic stream requiring X-ray, clinical tests, operation theatre and mobile vans. Many voluntary organisations have done inspiring work in this field and I must mention the pioneering models created in healthcare by the IIT, Madras, under guidance of Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala. But nothing of this sort inspires or fuels the imagination of our minister, otherwise supposed to be taking care of people’s health. He loves to hurt more and hurt with a resolve that would shame many of the steel-framed police officers hounding the terrorists and eliminating them in encounters. Anbumani trained his entire arsenal on one cardiologist who is respected as an iconic figure amongst patients and his students. I don't know how much respect this 'Minister of Hurt' commands in his own ministry, but certainly a more civil and modest person would have resigned after a series of Supreme Court strictures and comments on his conduct. Even otherwise, the whole episode betrays a lack of sensitivity on part of the UPA leaders, the Prime Minister and the President who okayed the bill to remove AIIMS Director, Venugopal, perhaps without giving a serious thought to it. Here is exactly where the quality and statesmanship of the nation's leadership is put to test. Dr. Venugopal, the cardiovascular surgeon par excellence who did the first heart transplant in India in 1994, received the Indira Priyadarshihni Award and the Padma Bhushan from this government. He helped people, commoners and poor, to get a new lease of life working at a low salary compared to his achievements and stature. His appointment letter reads like this -- Dr. P. Venugopal, Dean and Chief of Cardio Thoracic Centre and Professor of Cardio Thoracic and Vascular Surgery, Is hereby appointed as director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences , New Delhi for a period of five years .............(he) will get a pay of Rs. 26,000/-(fixed) plus non-practicing allowance (NPA) at the rate of 25% of the basic pay subject to the condition that pay plus NPA doesn't exceed Rs 29,000/- per month... This was the doctor Anbumani Ramadoss was gunning for. Till now, the minister has not been able to cite one single reason for his zidd (stubbornness) to remove Dr. Venugopal. The employees and the patients know that it’s the lust for power that is responsible. In turn, patients would suffer, a premier institute already cracking up under severe burden of medical cases pouring in from every corner of the land and even abroad would die in efficacy and credibility but the Prime Minister, UPA chairperson and the Leftist supporters will smile because they would have won a battle against an individual. Wow, viva new statesmanship of the futuristic Gen X! Now that the powers of Parliament have been used to remove one single person, ultimately, even in this removal the victory belonged to the sacked Dr. Venugopal and in turn, Indian Parliament and upholders to the Constitution are shamed. In times like this when barbarism and civil violations have become a routine affair, such incidents further erode people's trust in governance as a tool of relief and public good. More than hundred innocents are killed by Blueline buses, nothing is shaken up, terrorist attacks continue and a Chief Minister openly accuses the central government for intelligence failure, tea garden tribals demand constitutional status in a rally in Guwahati and are beaten to pulp in ghastly manner, a young girl is stripped in the market and forced to walk, no action is taken against the culprits in a state which sends the Prime Minister to the Upper House. The government openly advertises and distributes student scholarships to non-Hindus, thereby creating more fissures and widening the already existing gulf between communities. It doesn't show firmness in handling terrorists and providing better basic infrastructure in health and education in the rural areas, but the rich and powerful float in their stinking money pools. The nation belongs to the common people, but is run by the rich, for the rich.

Intolerant Malaysia, tolerant faith?

Malaysia which tries to woo Indian tourists with an aggressive media campaign claiming-it's a 'truly Asian' destination, has become a hotbed of Islamic intolerance and barbarities on non-Muslims. A famous lawyer, Manoharan, who has taken up issues concerning Hindu's human rights in Kuala Lumpur, was quoted by the local press as saying,' "Non-Muslims are treated as second-class citizens. They are not concerned whether you are a Malaysian; they are concerned only if you are a Malaysian Muslim”.' When Hindus gathered courage and protested against state supported religious terrorism and discrimination, in an unprecedented solidarity on November 26 in Kuala Lumpur, they were crushed brutally by the Malay police using chemicals in the water cannons. None of those who had put up a united front against a cartoon created in Denmark felt anything bad or condemnable in the injustices meted out to the Hindus in an Islamic country. When it's a question of Hindus getting unfair treatment in a Muslim majority region, the 'civil, sophisticated and articulate' Muslim intellectuals take refuge in the statement that it's a matter concerning a foreign country. But when it's a question regarding a cartoon or a fatwa for beheading a writer, they say -we are a global Ummah, anything happening anywhere to Muslims is our common concern! All big lies and a bigger hypocrisy traded in the name of a religion. This year Diwali was not celebrated openly by Malaysian Hindus in protest against the demolition of one of their most revered shrines, the hundred-year-old Maha Mariamman temple in Padang Jawa. In the last fifteen years, hundreds of Hindu temples have been demolished and the number of forcible conversions and unfair treatment on religious grounds has been constantly increasing. The tragic case of Revathi was just a recent one. Moorthy Maniam was a Malaysian Hindu hero. After he died, a group of Muslims claimed he'd made a deathbed conversion. Despite his widow's protests, the Sharia courts declared that he should be buried as a Muslim. “They used Moorthy to show that in this country, Islam is supreme", complained his lawyer. In the 1980s, Malaysia's Sharia courts were given equal power to the civil courts, creating two parallel legal systems. But while the Sharia courts are constantly trying to extend their authority, secular courts are reluctant to challenge them. Malaysia has sixty per cent Malay Muslim population with Chinese, mostly Buddhists, and comprising twenty-five per cent. Malays of Indian origin constitute about eight per cent and Tamil Hindus are ninety per cent amongst them. There is a fair number of Indian Muslims too. Indian Malays were taken there by the British as plantation workers in the late nineteenth century and have now become an inseparable part of Malay life. In fact, from the second century to the 14th century, Malay Peninsula has seen Hindu kingdoms and a way of life beautifully expressed in arts, culture, language and Shaivite values. Sanskrit's influence over their language is visible all over, yet the Malay Muslims choose to express their affinity with the Arabs and deny their ancestral heritage. Politically, Indian-origin Malays follow the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), established in 1946 as an instrument of independence from the British rule. Malaysia, freed in 1957, remained a practising pluralistic society till Islamic fundamentalism grew in the last two decades bringing Arab money and intolerance with it. Now it has parallel Islamic courts, functioning along with the civil ones, which are obviously more influential. Malay Hindus have their leader in Datuk Seri Samy Vellu, president of the MIC and a minister in the14-party coalition government who mustered courage to protest against temple demolitions by declaring a 'private' Diwali this year. However, instead of being supported by the country’s Muslim intelligentsia, he was booed, and in a rally addressed by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, people demanded his ouster from the cabinet as a 'trouble maker'. Hindus seems to be losing hope on all fronts and are making last-ditch efforts to attract attention by any which way to their sorry state of affairs. An umbrella organisation of thirty Hindu NGOs has been formed under the banner of Hindu Rights Action Force or HINDRAF that had called for the successful demonstration on November 26. Earlier a court had banned the rally – but HINDRAF workers – gathered in an unprecedented number – twenty thousand by a modest count –defied the ban and had their voice heard throughout the world. A nation, which has seen centuries of Hindu influence nurturing its socio-cultural milieu, suddenly turned against her own people when Arab-Islamic influence grew, resulting in the dispossession of minority rights. It has tried now to completely eradicate its Hindu history being taught in the schools, including the descriptions regarding ancient Ganga Negara (2nd to 11th century), Langka Asuka(2nd to 14th century) and Sri Vijaya empire(3rd to 14th century) in different parts of the earlier greater Malay Peninsula. It's a reflection of India's secular government that the Malay Hindus of Indian origin chose to knock at the British doors, strangely petitioning the British government, Malaysia's former colonial ruler, to pay two million dollars each to every Indian-origin Malay as compensation for 'putting them in a situation of darkness and exploitation' which was a result of bringing their ancestors as indentured labourers a century before. They are discriminated on religious grounds and economic opportunities are not available to them. "Over the years Indians have been marginalised in this country and we now want the same rights as enjoyed by other communities," M. Kulasegaran, opposition lawmaker with the Democratic Action Party (DAP), told the media. "This gathering is unprecedented, this is a community that can no longer tolerate discrimination." said HINDRAF leader P. Uthayakumar. The demonstrators had gathered at Batu Caves Hindu temple and many of them carried posters of Mahatma Gandhi. But, sadly, there was no murmur amongst the Indian authorities in Delhi or in their High Commission in Kuala Lumpur about it.
Indian secularism prevents South Block to go vocal on injustices meted out to Indian-origin people if they happen to be Hindus. Only Muslim sensibilities are deemed fit to be entertained by Indian envoys abroad. This message further emboldens the jihadi intolerant rulers to take Hindus in their country for granted as a forlorn people for whom none would bother. Malay Chinese are given a voice by Singapore's influential leaders of Chinese origin like Lee Kuan Yew and Christians get full support from the US, UK and other European governments. Only Hindus, who have no other country on this earth but India to look upon for any moral support, are left abandoned. Sometimes I feel amazed to see that how highly educated people who shine in politics and academics can be so ruthless towards their own fellow citizens as to deny them basic human rights. Like a place of worship and a choice to adhere to a faith of choice. Why have the societal ruptures been so visibly strong in countries where Islamists form majority? We have enough such examples from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Malaysian incidents that have a common thread – wherever the Muslims are in majority the rights and freedom of the non-Muslims are severely curtailed. Take for example Kashmir. It's the only state in India which is a Muslim majority and see what happened there. Hundreds of temples were razed, Hindus were forced to flee, their women were raped, children were killed and houses forcibly occupied. The Muslims in Kashmir have been enjoying a special status under Constitution's Article 370, hardly any central law is enforced there, the number of income-tax payers is among the lowest and unlike other poor states, J&K gets 90 per cent central financial assistance as grants and only 10 per cent as loans. Still there are complaints that a 'Hindu central government discriminates'. The other minority, Buddhists mostly located in Ladakh , too, are harshly treated and discriminated against by the mainly Sunni Muslim governance in Srinagar. The Buddhist Association, Leh, has been submitting memorandums to the central government about how Buddhist youths are denied jobs and a fair chance to join the Kashmir Administrative service and professional colleges in spite of clearing the entrance exams. The number of Buddhist minorities is fast decreasing causing concern amongst their leaders. Even their dead are not allowed to be buried in Muslim-majority Kargil area and monasteries have been denied to be built. If that can happen in a Hindu majority India's Muslim majority state, one can imagine the position of Hindus in a Muslim majority country like Pakistan. A report of the United Nations Committee on the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD Committee) says, 'The Constitution of Pakistan segregates its citizens on the basis of religion; and provides preferential treatment to the Muslims. While Article 2 of the Constitution declares Islam as "the State religion of Pakistan" and the Holy Quran and Sunnah to be "the supreme law and source of guidance for legislation to be administered through laws enacted by the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies, and for policy-making by the Government", under Article 41(2) only a Muslim can become President. Further, Article 260 of the Constitution differentiates "Muslim" and "Non-Muslim" thereby facilitating and encouraging discrimination on the basis of religion. The Constitution is so glued to providing preferential treatment to the majority Muslims that even a Hindu judge has to take the oath of office in the name of "Allah". On 24 March 2007, Justice Rana Bhagwandas, a Hindu, while being sworn in as Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan, being the senior most judge after the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had to take oath with a Quranic prayer - "May Allah Almighty help and guide me, (A'meen)". The Hindus and Hinduism have been maligned and hatred against them is propagated in the text books approved by the National Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education. Among others, Hindus have been stated as "enemy of Islam" in the textbooks of Class V. I hate to look disillusioned and always try to see something positive and hopeful for my columns but to avoid the smoke around your neck is as calumnious as to see bad where everything is otherwise resplendent with nobility. Last week I met an important Malaysian foreign dignitary over lunch at Taj Chambers, when during the course of our discussion about Asians, I mentioned the plight of Malaysian Hindus. He simply rubbished all that had appeared in the international newspapers and channels saying 'small matters are presented hundred times larger than the real quantum of gravity'. 'We are a very tolerant society'. Really?