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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hindutva without poverty alleviation is a temple without the deity.

rediff news
May 23, 2009
Tarun Vijay
In times like these when the nation is facing serious external and internal challenges, it is incumbent upon anyone who thinks he is a nationalist to help the new government run smoothly.
Initially, the young brigade of Rahul Gandhi's team makes a terrific impact and buoyed with an Indian electorate's spectacular support, they look pretty good. With a suave Manmohan Singh at the helm it must make India better its image and move ahead, and why one should criticise them just they are not members of our party and don't sing the same song?

Isn't India greater than us all and our parties put together?

Having said that, it's also necessary, to stay firm, like Casablanca, on what has sustained the other side so long. Even if the Bharatiya Janata Party got almost 40 million votes less than the Congress, I would want every single party which fought the election on different manifestos and programmes to remain firm on its fundamentals and speak out about the anomalies of this system while working together for a common greater good of the people.

Isn't it great to see many stalwarts from various parties being elected to the Lok Sabha, which is sure to enrich the debates and the art of governing India?

Arrogant moneybag criminals are less this time and the young brigade from different parties showcase the youngest nation on this planet quite gracefully.

A few points on the other side must also be pondered over.

Indian democracy has come a full circle. From Mahatma Gandhi's salt movement to a universal dynastic movement. No party can say it's not following the new thumb rule.

Almost half the voters didn't vote.
Money spent per constituency reached an all time high as per newspaper reports with exceptions of a few like the Loksatta Party's Jayaprakash Narayan. Just one or two seats? The rest are real crorepatis.
It's all mathematical jugglery. Somewhere Raj Thackeray's maneuverings and in another state the Praja Rajyam Party diverted the anti-incumbency votes and the consolidated Muslim vote bank helped.
More than half the votes polled went against them. The Congress got just 28 percent. The rest of the voters -- 72 percent -- didn't vote for it. The BJP's share came down to approximately 18 percent (in 1999 it got 25.3 percent). Still they say people voted for a stable and secular government and showed the door to the communalists who got nearly 18 percent votes.
What were the issues that the 'communalists' raised?

The issue of the Kashmiri Hindus. Was that wrong?

Or demanding revocation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and stringent measures against terrorists?

Or the agitation for the Amarnath land and preservation of the unique world heritage and a symbol of faith like the Ram Sethu ?

The nationalists opposed the divisive politics of Raj Thackeray, who was propped up by the Congress to counter the Shiv Sena Was opposing Raj wrong?

They were responsible for Pokaran-II and were committed to preserve our rights for Pokaran-III if needed. Was that against the national interest?

On the eve of the polls they said forget 1984, but remember Gujarat. What mentality did it show?

The nationalists wanted Article 370 to go and Kashmir fully integrated with the rest of India. Was that against national integration?

Should India be governed on religious fragmentation and parochial chauvinism or on the basis of egalitarianism, equal rights and privileges to all rising above the communal lines?

Let everyone ponder -- Hindus have been continuously assaulted for the last 1,200 years. Do they have a right to preserve their heritage and way of life after a partitioned independence or not?

On the other hand the Congress, whatever they believed in, they delivered.

Removed POTA, faced opposition. Didn't relent.

Introduced reservations for the Muslims. Faced opposition. Didn't relent.

Constituted Sachar Committee. Its divisive attitude and faulty inferences were discussed and severely criticised. It didn't budge an inch and carried on.

Faced a barrage of criticism on the delay in hanging Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru. It stood sweetly firm.

It de-froze Octavio Quattrocchi's accounts in London ,unshackled him from the Central Bureau of Investigation. The media and the others cried foul. So what? It remained cool.

It kept silent over Nandigram , Singur. But had the prudence to tie up with the Trinamool Congress And succeeded in defeating the Left.

It gave huge amounts of plan allocation funds to the minorities ignoring the majority Hindu concerns. So what? It got Hindu middle-class votes plus Muslim ones.

It faced flak on its policy to combat terrorism, had to change its home minister and the chief minister of Maharashtra post the 26/11 attacks. Yet it won in Mumbai handsomely.

It got a nuke deal passed despite the entire Opposition and one of its key allies opposing it in one language. It saw silently that Parliament was turned into a bazaar. Yet it won the Muslims and a new mandate.

And the Hindutva group faced a powerfully hostile section of the media. Some of them became an instrument to oppose Hindu assertions maligning them with celebrative enthusiasm for irrelevant happenings like we saw at the Mangalore pub. Their ('fair, objective and independent torch bearers of freedom of expression') controllers, writing in newspaper columns and on their blogs, had nothing but a decisive opposition and acidic hate for a particular section of the Indians who asserted their dharma.

These Hindus were demonised for their civil assertions and all the media space was given to the one sided attacks on them like the Taliban did in Swat.

How the owners of the channels, writing politically partisan columns in newspapers that blatantly support a particular political party, would allow a debate that can be closer to objectivity and does justice to the other viewpoint?

Those who fought for the immediate gains must sulk.

Those who battle for ideology must stay firm.

It needs someone to say that only buildings and roads and good governance are not ideology but a partial manifestation of its programmes. Ideology distinguishes a Gandhi from a Hitler ,a Golwalkar from a Stalin.

If in this kind of a maneuvering polity, the chips are down for the BJP today, it doesn't show that the issues have been rejected or defeated. It must always remember the reason that the Jan Sangh was re-born as the BJP. People have supported it so far because it is perceived as the only party that doesn't feel embarrassed to protect the Hindu ethos of the nation.

That's what L K Advani admitted in the Mumbai executive meeting held after the 2004 defeat. The only factor that will reinvigorate and make the adherents of a movement fortified by the martyrdoms of hundreds of workers rise again is the power of ideology, a youthful solidarity and not just the blue prints of IT highway plans and NREGS allocations.

India rising must mean India civilisationally committed, militarily strong and economically sound. Hindutva without a strong poverty alleviation drive and guaranteeing employment and housing to all is as meaningless as a temple without the deity. And vice versa.

These were the elections that were contested by the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor and powerless, unorganised millions. Nowhere were the issues of empowering the poor and low-income groups, or earmarking housing as a fundamental right and increased facilities and ultramodern training to the police and security forces were considered a winnable election slogan or a charter to earn people's mandate.

How did the parties connect or even tried to befriend and educate a rickshaw puller on issues that affect his life as a citizen? Did they feel the need for it? He would be required only in a rally of the poor to be addressed by a rich leader. He is the class, which is used for emotive issues as cannon fodder. He dies in greatly publicised agitations unsung with none of the red-eyed, angry leaders who led him to death caring how his family is continuing with a life that it didn't choose.

Issues of Hindu-Muslim, caste and provincialism are raised just for the limited gains of vote and then easily forgotten once the space in Lutyen's Delhi is assured.

The life of a hawker or labourer who gets his daily wages after a cut by his middleman contractor and the factory worker hasn't changed since last decade. Still in the remote villages water scarcity, famines, floods, 12-hour power cuts, bad roads and overloaded means of transportation are facts of life.

The mushrooming growth of the new educational malls providing half-baked degrees to aspiring youth and the huge number of increasing urban and rural unemployed semi-skilled work force can't get on to the agendas of any politician unless they form a usable vote bank.

The urban public amenities, buses, railway stations and localities of the low-income group working people show unbelievable depths of human misery, filth, anarchical systemic failure and life in sub-human conditions.

If those who won on the basis of factors quite differently than the real democracy is all about, should it mean the issues so dear to the ideological soldiers be shelved? Or should it make our battle more resolved?

And it also means asking questions like what's the use of religious chants if the followers of Ram go to sleep on empty stomachs? This is not what we have learnt from Vivekananda.

If we have to find a way for our identity protection, that can't only be through a society that is educated and free from want. Hence, this war is ideological and not for the singular aim of materialistic prosperity, roads, bridges and IT centres.

Indian wisdom and civilisational excellence has always reigned supreme defeating the sword wielders and the controllers of wealth.

If we win the war of ideas, we shall be richer with both Vidya (wisdom) and Vitta (wealth). But if riches come to us without ideological firmness, nothing would be saved -- neither wealth nor Dharma.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Talk tough to tackle terror

Hindustan TimesMay 21, 2009

Tarun Vijay
Pakistan was created because its leaders said they could not live with Hindus and they needed a separate State. This is the basic truth, but we seem to forget this all the time because we are under the spell of a mirage called secular diplomacy.

Since its birth, the country gave us the Mirpur massacre, a Kargil and an unstable and volatile Swat Valley. There is more: they ‘gifted’ our 4,853 sq km of land to China, waged Operation Topac in Punjab and fuelled separatism and terrorism in Kashmir. But when they were badly bruised by their homegrown ‘freedom fighters’, they began playing the victim card.

Even after all this, it’s quite amazing that they have the guts to call themselves victims of terrorism. But what about those people who buy this argument? Whenever Pakistan has been buoyed by the US’s financial and military support, they have attacked us. They have also manufactured the Islamic bomb. Every single missile they produced (Ghauri, Ghazni, Qasim) was named after people who were known for their hatred against Hindus. And yet we have people who tell us that Pakistan too is a victim of ‘non-State players’ and the two countries should fight terrorism together.

What the Swat Valley is facing today must be seen in its historical context. Swat was a great centre of learning and it sent Buddhist monks all over the world to spread the message of peace and compassion. The original name of this beautiful region was Udyan and this finds a mention in ancient Buddhist and Hindu scriptures. Chinese travellers have written about Swat’s majestic beauty and more than 1,400 Buddhist monasteries flourished there. The Kushans and Hindu Shahis ruled till 1001 CE when Mahmud of Ghazni invaded the area.

Swat’s neighbouring areas are the Gilgit, Chitral, Kafiristan and Hindukush mountain ranges. As the names suggest, all these regions have an indelible Hindu imprint but the conquerors renamed the areas with a vengeance. Hindukush is a mountain where Hindus were crushed and Kapish was called Kafiristan, because the inhabitants were non-Muslims.

When an Afghan ruler invaded the area in 1895, he forcibly converted all and then renamed the region as Nuristan — the land of light. So, what Swat’s Hindus and Sikhs are facing today is a continuation of what happened to Hindus since the Muslim invasions began.

Guru Nanak faced the same barbarians. In 1523, Babar attacked India and after crossing Sindhu entered Saiadpur (now Amnabad), 15 kilometre south east of Gujranwala. His soldiers killed and looted, turning a city of life into a ghost town of dead bodies. Guru Nanak saw this, and used the word ‘Zabar’ (ferocious) for Babar.

You could say forget it, bygones are bygones. But this Hindu attitude of forgetting the bitter past and beginning a new friendship has always remained unreciprocated. Various armed lords are controlling Pakistan. Islamabad’s authority has lost its relevance except for the army and the US. Washington is once again fattening the army coffers, repeating the historical blunder of General Zia’s period. The only way to strengthen peace and plurality in the region is India’s democracy. Whichever party rules India, they must not allow any kind of extremism like we see in our neighbourhood. Pakistan has become self-destructive.

However, Delhi can’t say that it will not do anything. We are affected by Islamabad’s follies more than the US. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to check religious fanaticism in that country.

Direction was right but failed to reach people

22 May, 2009
Tarun Vijay
The issues were just those the people wanted BJP to raise — harsh on terror; IT for the rural folks and commoners; five lakh Kashmiri Hindus be sent back; illegal Bangladeshi infiltration to be stopped; opposing Raj Thackeray’s divisive parochialism; bringing back black money from Swiss banks and de-communalising state schemes; making secularism mean seeing citizens as Indians and ending appeasement on religious grounds.

The best of the highway schemes, telecommunication revolution, roads, improved power supply and novel schemes for the girl child were essentially BJP initiatives earning laurels from bodies like planning Commission to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

BJP’s direction was decided by nationalism and not by family fiefdoms or Afzal-Quattrocchi centric considerations of an extra-constitutional variety. It stood firmly against the bloody jihadis of Nizame-Mustafa and Nizame-Marx kind and was the first party in India’s history to introduce 30% reservation for women.

It was the only party that had a clear policy framed for youth and infrastructure building with an assured economic package for farmers. Anything wrong in that?

Those who blame Hindutva forget that if India was not a Hindu majority we would have gone the Pakistan way. The entire south Asia is facing a rapid marginalisation and decrease in Hindu population. State powers are blatantly bruising Hindu sentiments for vote banks — communal reservations and hurting the majority on issues like Ram Setu. Why it has become a ‘sin’ to speak for them who continue to be brutalised from Swat to Srinagar?

Never in post-Independence history have security forces felt so letdown; ex-army personnel even returned their well-earned war-decorations in frustration. BJP took up their anguish. The top industrialists and corporate giants publicly appreciating BJP policies was a rare phenomenon.

Was it prompted by BJP’s ‘wrong’ direction? With the bright young radiant faces of the rich and powerful families entering Parliament triumphantly, Indian democracy has come a full circle. From Gandhi’s salt movement to a dynastic movement. The BJP direction was just right. The fault lies somewhere in reaching out to the people.



On the first day of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, a special session
based on the theme Diaspora Youth and India, Blueprint for Engagement
was chaired by the dynamic and young parliamentarian, Mr. Jyotirditya
Scindia. This interactive session drew a lot of enthusiasm from the
Diaspora youths.
Mr Scindia identified Culture, Education and Health as the three focus
areas for development. He stressed on the need for two-way exchange
programmes, distance learning programmes and the need for initiating
world-class institutes in India. He was of the opinion that the
Diaspora youth could lend its support by volunteering their time and
effort to developing the health sector as India seeks to create a
market for health services and attract private investment in this

In a special address, Mr. Arun Shourie, Minister of
Disinvestments and Communications & Information Technology encouraged
the Diaspora youth to excel in their chosen field of interest and
profession, so as to keep India shining. He urged them to keep their
connections alive with India and work in partnership with this country
through a healthy transfer and exchange of best practices from across
the world in terms of laws, policies, procedures, technology and
The session was moderated by the vivacious Ruby Bhatia who summed up
saying that youth from both overseas and India need to dispel their
illusions and engage in cultural exchange programmes, build a
collective identity and consider setting up a Youth Diaspora body. She
mooted the suggestion of creating a virtual community with the
assistance of a youth specific portal.
Other prominent speakers in the session included Mr. Shiren Dewani,
Senior Associate, Reorganisation Services, Deloitte & Touche, UK; Ms.
S. Mitra Kalita, President, SAJA, USA; Mr. Parag Khanna, World
Economic Forum Global Governance Initiative, The Brookings
Institution, USA; Mr. Karan Manhas, MLA, Vancouver, Canada; Ravindren
C Ponniah, Student Malaysia; Mr. S. Arunachalam, Director, AR
International, Hong Kong; Mr. Anand Shah, Indicorps, USA and Mr. Tarun
Vijay, Editor, Panchjanya.
Each one of the speakers expressed their emotional attachment to their
Indian Origin and immense pride in their heritage. They felt that even
though they were now natives of other countries, they will be Indians
in their heart forever.
Mr. Tarun Vijay, Editor, Panchjanya made some notable suggestions, -
Establishment of a Pravasi Bhartiya Chair to document the learning’s
of the Indian Diaspora in their stay abroad
Encourage the study of
Indian civilisation through cultural exchange programmes organised by
the ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) Institution of an
annual Pravasi Youth award that could be given away on the occasion of
the youth icon Swami Vivekanand’s birth anniversary on January 12
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2004 is being jointly organised by the
Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Government of India and the
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) from
January 9-11, 2004. The three-day event was inaugurated by the Prime
Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and followed by the
presentation of Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards 2004.
January 9 each year has been chosen as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
both in India and abroad as it was on this date in 1915 that Mahatma
Gandhi finally returned to India after almost two decades in South
Africa. The recommendation of celebration of the Pravasi Bharatiya
Divas had been made to recognise the contribution of the Indian
Diaspora in the political, economic, social, academic and cultural

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

आत्मचिंतन का अवसर

दैनिक जागरण
17 May, 2009
तरुण विजय
जब देश कठिन चुनौतियों से घिरा हो तब अपनी जीत या हार के मुद्दे को पृथक रखते हुए यह देखना चाहिए कि देश ने एक राष्ट्रीय प्रभाव वाले दल के नेतृत्व में गठबंधन सरकार का जनादेश दिया है और बंगाल में वामपंथियों का पराभव हुआ है। ये दोनों ही स्थितियां व्यापक राष्ट्रीय हित की दृष्टि से स्वागत योग्य हैं। सुरक्षा और आर्थिक चुनौतियों के मुकाबले के लिए संकीर्ण क्षेत्रीयतावादी दलों की अपेक्षा राष्ट्रीय दल का स्थायित्व देने वाला शासन अधिक स्वीकार्य होना चाहिए। इस परिणाम की न तो काग्रेस को आशा थी और न ही भाजपा को। आतंकवाद, महंगाई, बेरोजगारी, हिंदुओं के प्रति संाप्रदायिक भेदभाव और मुस्लिम तुष्टीकरण जैसे विषय सामने होते हुए काग्रेस के नेतृत्व में संप्रग जीत गया। इसका अर्थ यह कतई नहीं लगाना चाहिए कि संप्रग की विफलताओं को प्रकट करने वाले तमाम मुद्दे गलत थे या उन पर जनता उद्वेलित नहीं थी। यह वैसे ही होगा जैसे बादलों से भरे आकाश में सूर्य को अनुपस्थित मान लिया जाए। भाजपा को जिन क्षेत्रों में विजय की संभावना थी वहा वह जीती ही है। जहा से उसे अतिरिक्त सीटें मिलने की आशा थी वहा वैसा नहीं हुआ। इसका विश्लेषण करना होगा। कर्नाटक, गुजरात, मध्य प्रदेश जैसे प्रांतों में प्रखर और असंदिग्ध हिंदुत्व के साथ आम जनजीवन के विकास, शिक्षा और महिला सशक्तीकरण जैसे मुद्दे जुड़े तो विधानसभा से लोकसभा तक सफलताएं मिलीं। पारस्परिक मतैक्य, सामंजस्य और विनम्रता के साथ कार्यकर्ताओं को आत्मीय बंधन में जहा बाधा गया वहा भाजपा का विस्तार हुआ। जहा अंतरकलह अखबारों के पहले पन्ने पर छह-छह महीने छाई रही वहा हारे। भाजपा के जन्म में उस राष्ट्रवाद की रक्षा का संकल्प छिपा है जो हिंदुत्व के प्रति शर्मिंदा नहीं, गौरवान्वित करता है। अत: भाजपा को जनादेश प्रखर विचारधारा में आबद्ध संगठन विस्तार की चुनौती के रूप में लेना चाहिए और नए कलेवर के साथ पुनरोदय के लिए जुटना चाहिए। भाजपा ने गाधीवादी समाजवाद से रामरथ यात्रा तक का भी सफर तय किया है, यह याद रखना चाहिए। जब भी वह विचारधारा पर अडिग रही है उसका समर्थन बढ़ा है। उसने 2 सीटों से 184 सीटों तक का भी सफर तय किया है, यह किस आधार पर हुआ?

मुख्य बात है संख्या बल। संख्या बल तब आता है जब आत्मबल मजबूत हो। भाजपा का आत्मबल वैचारिक निष्ठा से शक्ति पाता है। अगर वैचारिक निष्ठा प्रबल नहीं है तो भाजपा और बाकी दलों में अंतर क्या रह जाएगा? अगर भाजपा ने अपने रंग को हल्का किया तो उसका जो वर्तमान जनाधार है वह न केवल अधिक दरक जाएगा, बल्कि नया जनाधार भी नहीं बनेगा। यह समय शात मन से विश्लेषण करने और निर्ममतापूर्वक उन कमियों को दूर करने का है जो भाजपा की बढ़त में बाधक हैं। अब मुख्य चुनौती अगले चुनावों में, वे जब भी हों, अपने दम पर पूर्ण बहुमत लाने के लिए काम करने की है। भाजपा की हर सरकार को पं. दीनदयाल उपाध्याय की सादगी, समर्पण, कार्यकर्ताओं से आत्मीयता और बहुमुखी जनविकास का आदर्श नमूना बनाने का प्रयास करना चाहिए। देश जिन चुनौतियों से घिरा हुआ है उसमें सत्ता पक्ष के साथ राष्ट्रीय मुद्दों पर रचनात्मक सहयोग की भूमिका लेते हुए ऐसा कड़ा विपक्ष देना चाहिए जो सरकार को किसी भी प्रश्न पर कमजोरी न दिखाने दे। संप्रग की जीत का यह अर्थ नहीं है कि क्वात्रोची जैसे मामले, सीबीआई जैसी संस्थाओं में सरकारी दखल, आतंकवाद और बेरोजगारी जैसे मुद्दे निरर्थक हो गए। कड़े विपक्ष की भूमिका में तपते हुए भाजपा को भी आत्ममंथन और आत्मसुधार का मौका मिलेगा।

सोलह मई के नतीजों ने एक ऐसे भारत की संसद चुनी है जिसके 55 प्रतिशत नागरिक गरीबी और उपेक्षा का जीवन बिता रहे हैं। लगभग 28 करोड़ भारतीय गरीबी रेखा से नीचे यानी 50 रुपए प्रतिदिन से भी कम आय पर गुजारा कर रहे हैं तो 19 करोड़ की दैनिक आय 50 से 60 रुपए प्रतिदिन है और अन्य 17 करोड़ 60 से 70 रुपए प्रतिदिन पर जीवन बिता रहे हैं। 25 से 35 प्रतिशत तक मध्यवर्गीय और निम्नमध्यवर्गीय हैं तो शेष 10 प्रतिशत अमीर देश के अधिकाश संसाधनों पर नियंत्रण किए दिखते हैं। ऐसी स्थिति में उस महान और विराट भारतीय स्वप्न को साकार करने कौन सा नेतृत्व उभरकर आ सकेगा जो खतरों से घिरी भारतीय सीमा और आर्थिक बदहाली की शिकार आम भारतीय प्रजा के दु:ख निवारण के लिए ईमानदार प्रतिबद्धता के साथ शक्ति संचय कर सके? जिसे अपनी हिंदू विरासत पर शर्मिंदगी न हो, खम ठोककर स्वात से श्रीनगर तक हिंदू-सिख व्यथा दूर करने के लिए निर्भीक तेजस्विता के साथ खड़ा हो सके। वह भारतीय स्वप्न जिसमें सीमाएं सुरक्षित, शत्रु भयभीत, देशभक्त नि‌र्द्वंद्व तथा समाज विद्या, धन और आपसी सामंजस्य से परिपूर्ण हो, आज किस नेता की आखों में दिखता है? आज तो नेपाल और बांग्लादेश तक में हिंदू विरोधी तत्व हमें आखें दिखा रहे हैं।

श्रीलंका में तमिलों के साथ भीषण अत्याचार हो रहे हैं, लाखो तमिल परिवारों के शरणाथर्ीं बनने की व्यथा के प्रति भारत का राजनीतिक वर्ग पूर्णत: उदासीन दिखता है। प्रातीयतावाद इतना हावी है कि कश्मीरियों का दर्द व्यक्त करना जम्मू का दायित्व है, महाराष्ट्र या उड़ीसा का नहीं और तमिलों की वेदना पर कार्रवाई के लिए तमिलनाडु के नेता बोलेंगे, बिहार या पंजाब के नहीं। अखिल भारतीय दृष्टि और भारत के हर हिस्से की वेदना पर हर दूसरे क्षेत्र में समानरूपेण प्रतिध्वनि का भाव गहरा होने के बजाय विरल ही होता जा रहा है। इसलिए राजनीति के वर्तमान खंडित स्वरूप को एक अस्थाई और अस्वीकार्य दौर के रूप में मानकर एक ऐसी अखिल भारतीय समदृष्टि वाली राजनीति के लिए प्रयास आरंभ करने चाहिए जिसमें हर क्षेत्र की आकाक्षाओं और विकास का समानरूपेण ध्यान रखने वाला राष्ट्रीय नेतृत्व विकसित हो।

Ayutthya Diary by Tarun Vijay

17th May 2009

A Conclave Of Gods
Bangkok’s international airport, which is claimed to be the world’s biggest, is called Suvarnabhumi—a pure Sanskrit word, which gives me my first glimpse of how deep ancient Indian and Hindu influences run in Thailand. The road leading from the airport to the city is named after Rama IX, and there’s another road named after Rama I. I see a huge sculpture of the great churning of the ocean, with Vishnu as its magnificent centerpiece.
Thailand is a country where Rama and Ganesha coexist happily with Buddha and Avalokiteshwara. A Chinese Buddhist lady monk has built a fabulous Shiva temple (though it leaves an Indian devotee rather bewildered), and Ganesha worship is spreading like a reinvented rage amongst the youth. Shops, homes and street corners have Ganapati images in tiny, beautiful wooden shrines, about the size of the little tree-houses we use to feed birds. Songkran (from the Sanskrit Sankranti) is the Thai new year, which also comes close to Baisakhi—13th April—and I had to address a couple of new year meetings in Bangkok organised by the Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh. The present king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, is a living legend, the longest serving monarch on the planet today.

Solitude At Sangam
The ubiquitous presence of Ram in this deeply Buddhist land made me decide to cancel a weekend in Pattaya, and go instead to Ayutthya, the tranquil ancient capital of Thailand—a decision I will never regret. If Bangkok dazzles with its superb infrastructure and perfectly designed signage, and frazzles with its horrific traffic jams, Ayutthya soothes. The city, which derives its name from Rama’s Ayodhya, is just 76 km from Bangkok. It is majestically situated on the confluence of three rivers, the Chao Phraya, Pasak, and Loburi. Its Buddhist splendour is enchanting, and the vast expanse of ruins of temples and palaces, dotted with banyan and peepal trees, makes an awe-inspiring sight. Ayutthya was a flourishing capital for more than four centuries, till the Burmese destroyed it in 1765. It reminded me of Hampi—how and why did such a great city fall into decay?
Ayutthya today is calmness incarnate. Clean, serene, and welcoming to tourists. The absence of concrete and glass structures, the dominance of eight century-old relics, gives it a look of being in a perpetual state of silent yoga. Hindus in India must learn a few things from this Ayutthya—how to keep temples clean, preserve heritage with respect, and be courteous to devotees and visitors, without arrogant, clamorous priests looking to extort their money.
The structures bear the unmistakable stamp of Khmer architecture, with huge royal halls, soaring temple domes and grand images of meditating and reclining Buddhas. The spontaneous laughter of child bhikkus (monks) flows through this ancient city like a rivulet in a rain forest.
People are transparently religious, and generous in their donations to monks, monasteries and temples. I am told about a poor woman who won a million dollars in a lottery, built a ‘wat’ and a temple with her winnings, and donated the rest of her money for their upkeep, while she continued to live in penury. There is a small mosque, bearing the name of Pakistan, apparently built with money from that country, and a church called ‘Blessings of Ayutthya’. The king ensures equal protection to all faiths, though his chief priest’s temple is known as Devasthan and has Shiva as the presiding deity. The Portuguese, Dutch, British and French visited Ayutthya between the 16th and 17th centuries, but there is no recorded mention of any Indian contact, although Indian influence is only too visible.

Thaksin, Tocsin
Dinesh Dube, a second-generation Thai entrepreneur, says Indians are welcomed, respected and trusted. But I find that they are rather lost in their own Gorakhpur-Ludhiana world, while earning in a land that teaches Sanskrit in four universities. The Indian community is deeply subdivided into Biharis, UP-wallahs, Gujaratis and Punjabis, and hardly makes any effort to identify with the Thai cultural milieu. The Chinese have an overwhelming presence and influence, using the Buddha route to maximise their ties with a strategic partner. Alas, Delhi has not capitalised on Buddha in the same way, though of late efforts to fortify age-old Ganga-Mekong friendship fibres are slowly yielding some results.
Taksin is a name Ayutthya never forgets. An ambitious Thai general who promoted himself to be king after Ayuthya’s fall and ruled from the other bank of Chao Phraya River, he became so powerful that he declared himself a Buddha incarnate. His ministers eventually revolted and executed him. Today, another Thaksin with his Red Shirt troopers—former prime minister Thaksin Sinawatra, who was charged and convicted for corruption—is ambitiously trying to overthrow the Thai government, even forcing it to cancel the prestigious ASEAN meet at Pattaya. It dealt a deep blow to national honour.

With humility, reorganise

Mid Day, Mumbai
Date: 2009-05-17
By: Tarun Vijay

THE sudden impact of the unexpected mandate shocked Congress and BJP both with different results. People are like that. The issues of terrorism, price rise, recession, corruption and black money were taken up, but the mandate went the other way and it must make BJP to think why it couldn't achieve its goal in spite of a supposedly favourably atmosphere.

The truth is BJP did well in its areas of influence, increased its tally in UP but couldn't gather extra mileage in areas where it was already on the margins like West Bengal, Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Also wherever the infighting was a page one matter for months, it couldn't assure voters and its support base about its good intentions.

Now what? Think together, be a constructive opposition and reorganise with an undiluted commitment to ideology giving leadership at various levels to the youth under the guidance of stalwarts. The genesis of Janasangh and later its reincarnation as BJP is rooted in the strong nationalism which is unapologetic about Hindutva. Thats how the world recognises us. It means justice for all and appeasement of none. It also means strong on security, working for an economic rejuvenation, providing best of education and housing and infrastructure and taking up poverty alleviation programmes.
BJP needs to transform itself as a youthful, ideologically committed party with universal values of friendship and harmony. The dreamy eyed young generation is marching ahead with vigour and a confidence to win. Let BJP become the flagbearer of that change reflected in the ideals of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya, who had become leaders at a very young age when they were in early forties, and ironically both were murdered in mysterious circumstances.
Their martyrdom must light the path and their simplicity, idealism and rock like commitment be our charter of faith. Victory shall be ours undoubtedly.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Whose elections were these anyway?

The Times of India
15 May 2009,
Tarun Vijay

The last phase of polling ended on May 13 and Lok Sabha election results will begin pouring in on May 16 morning. In between a world of words churned heavy doses of speculation and the nation was projected as waiting with utmost anxiety to know who would rule it in the next phase of governance. The media and political circles were seen decoding numbers, debating issues of great national importance like which party and conglomeration will align with whom at what cost. "Four singles" were projected as holding keys to make dreams of two "mixed doubles" true. Words like horse trading, head counts, going for the highest bidders and deals were afloat, and very grim looking, stiff-faced thinkers and editors were on prime-time debates guiding the nation with their serious analyses.
Meanwhile, those who desired governorships, ambassadorial assignments or positions of OSDs to ministers showed up at the bungalows of the promising winners and assured them, "Sir, I have confirmed news from IB, you are winning and sahib will certainly become PM. Congratulations in advance, sir. Please do not forget me, sir, when you take oath."
Usual things in this part of the world. Corporate giants and their lackeys were present in full strength and promised all out support to their "horses" for the next round of government making -- post May 16.

This was happening when almost 50% of the Indian electorate chose not to vote.
And we shall be happy about the great vivacity, prudence and efficacy of our electorate and democratic institutions.
The second day, having returned from one such serious TV discussion on a very honestly fudged exit poll, we completed the ritual of watching Balika Vadhu at home and went out for "chaat" in Fateh Puri.
And while savouring the best mix of bhalla-papadi, I couldn't resist asking the "chaatwalla": "Kya khayal hai bhaiyya, kiski sarkar banegi (Dear brother, who you think will form the government)?"
He replied taking my serious query as a funny, unimportant one: "How does it matter to us? It matters to only those handful of people who know the leaders and are in their closer circles. Let any one form the government."
I dismissed it as a cynical answer of a semiliterate person who didn't realize the importance of his vote. The government he chooses decides the destiny of the country. Those who people parliament are called lawmakers and law is the vehicle that drives the national life.
Who was right -- the "chaatwalla" or I?
I think the "chaatwalla" was right.
Where are the voter and the nation and the interest of the disadvantaged and the distanced people of this land in the decisions that party leaders are about to make to form the next central government?
Which party or front has put up a condition to introduce the universally available health scheme, an assured health insurance to all and better public hospitals as a precondition to form a coalition? Or which leader has announced that his support is assured to the party that promises good primary schools in his area, with the best of facilities available to the children of Shah Rukh and Ambani made available to the poor and farmers? Why can't we give top priority to our common, often voiceless, citizens? Just forget the individual election manifestos released by the parties. Everything depends on the common minimum programme that will be agreed upon by winning coalitions post May 16.
These were the elections that were contested by the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor and powerless, unorganized millions. Nowhere the issues of empowering the poor and low-income groups, or earmarking housing as a fundamental right and increased facilities and ultramodern training to the police and security forces were considered a winnable election slogan or a charter to earn people's mandate. How did the parties connect or even tried to befriend and educate a rickshaw puller on issues that affect his life as a citizen? Did they feel the need for it? He would be required only in a rally of the poor to be addressed by a rich leader. He is the class, which is made to get worked up on emotive issues and used as cannon fodder. He dies in greatly publicized agitations unsung with none of the red-eyed, angry leaders who led him to death caring how his family is continuing with a life that it didn't choose. Issues of Hindu-Muslim, caste and provincialism are raised just for the limited gains of vote and then easily forgotten once the space in Lutyen's Delhi is assured.
The life of a hawker or labourer who gets his daily wages after a cut by his middleman contractor and the factory worker hasn't changed since last decade. Still in the remote villages water scarcity, famines, floods, 12-hour power cuts, bad roads and overloaded means of transportation are facts of life. The mushrooming growth of the new educational malls providing half-baked degrees to the aspiring youth and the huge number of increasing urban and rural unemployed semi-skilled work force can't get on to the agendas of any politician unless they form a usable vote bank. The urban public amenities, buses, railway stations and localities of the low-income group working people show unbelievable depths of human misery, filth, anarchical systemic failure and life in a subhuman condition.
The biggest fraud of our times has been to showcase improvement in the railways. You have to travel sleeper class to see the coaches filled with passengers like animals in a goods train with lower levels of cleanliness. Every major platform is choked with passengers squatting on the floors, as there is no proper space for the travelers to wait and board the train with dignity. The politicians do not find it necessary to look at the common citizen with respect and provide him facilities he deserves by virtue of being an Indian citizen.

A senior member of the Indian Administrative Service, Alok Kumar, in a brilliant analysis, in Garhwal Post , has reflected on how these elections might have become less relevant for the millions of people who have restricted sources of income and are living on the edge: "At 267 million [2005] , the number of poor remains unacceptably large. If you also include the fact that of the remaining population, 190 million earn between $1 and $1.25 a day and a further 170 million earn between $1.25 and $1.35 a day, it would be clear that a large number of people, 55% to be precise, cannot afford a life of dignity. The increase in per capita income (currently $575) largely reflects the income growths of the top quintile of the population. It has been estimated by the Forbes 2006 list of study that the 32 Indian billionaires have amassed assets totaling $153.7 billion, equivalent to 15.4% of the GDP of the country and at a modest rate of return of 10%, they command close to 1.5% of the national wealth of the country. It could arguably be said that a few billionaires could possibly raise the mean income; without affecting the vast majority of poor.

"The symbiotic relationship between politics & big business has worried commentators enough to contemplate upon the possibility of an oligarchic state in India. Where does this leave the "Aam Admi? -- the so called median voter? The farm loan waiver has been said to benefit the rich farmers more than the small and marginal ones, because the latter category was largely excluded from access to credit from government financial institutions and therefore relied more on private sources of credit. Schemes such as NREGP, RKVY & NRHM have been designed to reach exactly the median voter -- "Aam Admi" but in the absence of reforms in the delivery mechanism, it is not certain as to what proportion of intended benefits is reaching the median voter. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has submitted 11 reports so far, but any change in the governance structure still remains a commitment unfulfilled. The recent return to power of incumbent governments in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi was seen as the citizens' vote for good governance. I wish I could characterize it so, but I am not so sanguine. In Rajasthan, with an excellent record of implementation of NREGA entailing huge transfers of money to the rural labour, this was not sufficient to ensure reelection to the incumbent government ... The moral of the story - with due apologies to John Allen Paulos: 'It's Mean to Ignore the Median'."
It's not just true about the daily needs of an "aam aadmi", who is not touched by the politically active class, but also about the middle-income groups that form the majority of the Indian people put together. In our daily lives, from a berth reservation in the railways to getting your child admitted to a good school and having a driving licence to benefiting from the farmers' loan waiver scheme and getting a medical aid you need a political contact. Netaji's letter and his phone calls are too important for small mercies. Each neta, on an average is a controller of a few hundred crore rupees and lives a luxurious life in his green acres maintained at public money. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, a great academic and nationalist ideologue said, "No government which calls itself civilized has the right to exist unless it can so formulate and administer its policy as to keep the people under its charge free from minimum want and privation." But who cares?
The debates you see on the TV screens by intelligent people are not meant for the poor and the median.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Like a flower in Buner

The Times of India,prtpage-1.cms

11 May 2009,
Tarun Vijay

I have seldom read such fictional defence of the barbarians — except in the propaganda sheets of Goebbels and Saddam Hussein — as was so painfully manifest in Mariana Babar’s account of Swat Sikhs. This account first appeared in The News, Karachi, and was later recycled by an Indian magazine.

I will comment on the version that appeared in Karachi, for the sake of presenting a Pakistani intellectual’s obsession with marginalizing the pains of non-Muslim minorities in their land of Islamic justice.

The gem of her two-part series is the line told to Mariana by a Swati refugee Sikh: “Believe me, the state of Pakistan treats us like a gul (flower). We are better off than the majority Pakistanis.”

When she asked about the protests in Jammu, a Sikh gentleman retorted, “We hope that these Sikhs there would stop this. They compromise our position as Pakistanis. Pakistan is Mecca for Sikhs because this is where Baba Guru Nanak was born. This soil is holy for us. In Pakistan it is our religion alone that is our protection.”

Now compare this with what other reporters have said about the Sikhs and the Hindus in Swat.

The Times of India ( reported: "On seeing reports about Sikh families in Pakistan being driven out of their homes and being subjected to `jaziya' and other such impositions, the Indian government has taken up the question of treatment of minorities in Pakistan with the government of Pakistan,” said MEA official spokesperson Vishnu Prakash. ... According to reports, Taliban militants have demolished 11 homes of members of the minority Sikh community in Pakistan's troubled Aurakzai tribal region after they failed to pay `jaziya'.

PTI reported from Islamabad: The National Assembly or lower house of the parliament adopted a resolution recommending that President Zardari should accord approval to the Nizam-e-Adal Regulation to implement Shariah or Islamic laws in Swat. The resolution was passed following a debate in the House. The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has offered its full support to the Regulation. (Rezaul H Laksar , April 13, 2009)

And on this appeared: After the Hindus, it is the Sikhs who are fleeing the restive Taliban dominated Swat region in Pakistan. At least 200 Sikhs have fled the Swat region and are taking shelter in various gurudwaras in Pakistan.

IANS reported this under the headline “Christians, Hindus, Sikhs forced to flee Swat: Catholic Church”: The minorities in Pakistan’s Swat Valley have been forced to flee as the Taliban have imposed a tax on non-Muslims, Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (PCBC) president Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha has said, urging the Pakistani president and prime minister to intervene. Expressing concern over the government’s move to allow the imposition of Sharia laws in parts of the North West Frontier Province, the archbishop said in his letter to the Pakistani leaders: “We note with sorrow that your government has failed to take stock of the concerns of civil society in Pakistan in your decision. “Christian, Hindu and Sikh families have been forced to flee because the Taliban imposed on them Jizia, a tax levied on non-Muslims living under Islamic rule,” he said. “Besides jeopardising the socio-economic and cultural growth in Swat and Malakand, the decision has also given legal sanction to the diktats of the trigger-happy Taliban,” the archbishop’s letter said.

But Mariana comfortably tries to mix sentiments with a state- sponsored propaganda and reports they didn’t flee from Swat because of fear of the Taliban. She quotes a Sardarji from Swat, “What is this propaganda that we have been forced to flee Swat and Buner because of the Taliban’s oppression? Please, the media has to distinguish between what happened to the Sikhs in the Orakzai agency, and why we have come here”.

They are “relaxed and comfortable”, and have no fear from the Taliban, according to the Pakistani reporter. In fact, they are lovable friends, she says. Mariana quotes a Sikh, “The heavily armed Taliban came to our village, stopped their vehicles in the bazaar and greeted us. We too greeted them and offered them cold drinks. They said they would pay but we insisted. They have been around for quite some time now, but have left us alone.”

So, who were the Sikhs brutalized by the Taliban? Her friend clarifies: “They were from Orakzai and have now gone to Peshawar gurudwara!”

She creates the same confusion as a section of the Pakistani press created post-26/11 that the Mumbai attackers were a part of “CIA-MOSSAD-Hindu radical” plot, and quotes another Sikh, “God only knows whether the ones in Orakzai who are victimizing the Sikhs are even Taliban or not. They could be someone else in the guise of the Taliban.”


Sikhs from Swat, taking refuge in Panja Sahib gurudwara, Hasan Abdal, are in a ‘Spartan’ surroundings, ‘better than the Swati Muslim refugees’, 'girls speak impeccable English’ and are dressed ‘smartly' and “none of the Swati baggy gypsy dresses for them”. And lo and behold, in spite of being forced to leave their home and hearth, the way they are being treated makes their every day as celebrative as Baisakhi. She quotes a woman, “Every day has been Basaki (sic) for them since they have been here.”

So what’s the fuss about?

News reports about Taliban brutalizing, imposing Jijia on non Muslims, Pakistani army being pushed into action against them under US pressure, in one day 55 Taliban reportedly killed by Pakistani army — all became irrelevant if one believes this kind of a “report”.

She has had Sikhs saying things which Taliban would like to hear.

Naturally so. If you are a Hindu or a Sikh in Pakistan, you are required to sing paeans to the perpetrators of atrocities in order to survive yet another day. Accept purdah the Muslim way, don’t read Hindi or Sanskrit to study your religious scriptures — read them all in Urdu. Don’t sport a bindi on your forehead. Learn to greet everyone the Islamic way. I have seen Hindu Pandits in Karachi’s famous Shiva temple wearing Muslim skullcaps inside the temple. Perplexed, when I asked the reason, they smiled and said: “It helps to be like the majority here.”

It was like Imam Bukhari wearing a Gandhi cap while addressing the faithful in Delhi's Jama Masjid and reading Koran in Hindi with a smile on his face saying, it’s nice to be like the majority.

Acceptable? It’s acceptable only if the minorities happen to be Hindus in a Muslim-majority country.

The tribe of such professionals never asks a question why the number of Hindus and Sikhs has been continuously on the decline in Pakistan since 1947? Why do they have no voice in the politics and governance, in the administration and social sector? Just one Sikh was admitted to the army sometime ago and it made international news!

The fact is the growing Talibanization of Pakistan is a direct result of strengthening of Deobandi school of Wahabism, which has accelerated the process of Arabization of Pakistani society and governance. Till Zia ul Haq, textbooks had a lesson on Ramayana and Hindi was taught in schools having a sizable Hindu students. Not any more. I searched almost all the bookshops in Karachi, Pakistan’s intellectual workstation, to find any book, in any language, on Hindu or Sikh pilgrim centres of Pakistan. I could find none.

Yet the common people are astoundingly different, they still nurture the relations which are mostly based on caste and language affiliations. Rajputs, Khatris, Gujjars, Sindhis have extraordinary bonds with their counterparts across the border cutting the religious fault lines. I saw it during my pilgrimage to Mata Hinglaj in Baluchistan three years ago. Besides that, there exists a section in Pakistan society that is well meaning, reasonable and works hard to see Hindus and other non-Muslim minorities are accorded a respectable place. But they are gradually being reduced to a negligible minority and the Taliban elements train their guns on them
more severely. One of such scholars Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, who is a Professor of Physics of Quad-e-Azam University, Islamabad, recently wrote an eye-opening piece. It’s worth reading and for the benefit of readers I must quote a few lines:

“To understand Pakistan's collective masochism, one needs to study the drastic social and cultural transformations that have made this country so utterly different from what it was in earlier times. For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Indian subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian Peninsula.

“This continental drift is not physical but cultural, driven by a belief that Pakistan must exchange its South Asian identity for an Arab-Muslim one. Grain by grain, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are replacing the rich soil that had nurtured a rich Muslim culture in India for a thousand years.

“Villages have changed drastically, driven in part by Pakistani workers returning from Arab countries. Many village mosques are now giant madrassas that propagate hard-line Salafi and Deobandi beliefs through oversized loudspeakers.

“As a part of General Zia-ul-Haq's cultural offensive, Hindi words were expunged from daily use and replaced with heavy-sounding Arabic ones. Persian, the language of Mughal India had once been taught as a second or third language in many Pakistani schools. But, because of its association with Shiite Iran, it too was dropped and replaced with Arabic. The morphing of the traditional "khuda hafiz" (Persian for "God be with you") into "allah hafiz" (Arabic for "God be with you") took two decades to complete. The Arab import sounded odd and contrived, but ultimately the Arabic God won and the Persian God lost.”

But as the discernible readers would have marked, even a reasonable Pakistani scholar like him had no words to say about the plight of non-Muslim minorities. There are sincere human rights activists taking up the cause of the minorities. Most of them have close links with the Indian Left and so keep a distance from India's Hindu responses. Yet, they serve a purpose worth an applause. I have met a Pakistani medical practitioner who has been helping build a temple for Hindu Valmikis (those who are still considered outcasts by an arrogant ritualistic Hindu section considering itself as 'high caste'.) and propagating vegetarianism. Every time he comes to India, invariably he would take a few small size stone sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses for his friends. He says, “My ancestors broke too many temples. Let me do my bit to heal the Hindu wounds.” Extraordinary tale. I too wouldn’t have believed it if I had not met him personally.

Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy's article gives an honest account of what a section of Pakistanis feels about the transformation that has taken place there.

We have good people everywhere, even in Saudi Arabia. So what? Do they have the strength and courage to finally stand up and provide protection to the hapless Hindus and Sikhs? In the last three months more than 6,000 Hindus were forced to flee Peshawar and Orakzai and take shelter in India. Did it make any difference to the seculars here? If a Hindu majority state remains unperturbed at the plight of Hindu refugees from Kashmir, how can we expect them to take any action to help Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan? Socialist leader Lohia in the sixties had clearly stated that the Indian state will always remain responsible to ensure protection and guarantee of life and faith to the Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan. In 1971, the hero of the Bangladesh liberation, Lt Gen J F R Jacob, had asked Mrs Indira Gandhi to ensure that the Hindu minorities were guaranteed safety and honour in the newly liberated state. Nothing happened. Indian leaders, remain silent and have their confused Pakistan policy mired in friendship diplomacy, which Islamabad has never reciprocated honestly.

Though Talibanization of Pakistan is affecting Muslims too, it has harder lessons for non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan who have been denied equal civil and religious rights in a country which owes its birth to an intense hate-Hindu mindset. Is that what makes Pakistani Hindus and Sikhs say they are being taken care of like a gul (flower), that too in Buner?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

An SOS from Pakistan by Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy- Professor of Physics

Here is an article by Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy- Professor of Physics at Quad-e-Azam University- Pakistan. It is a bit long but looks deeply into the current state of affairs.

An SOS from Pakistan
Pervez Hoodbhoy
March 16, 2009
Source: Frontline

FOR 20 years or more, a few of us in Pakistan have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. Nevertheless, none anticipated how quickly and accurately our dire predictions would come true. It is a small matter that the flames of terrorism set Mumbai on fire and, more recently, destroyed Pakistan 's cricketing future. A much more important and brutal fight lies ahead as Pakistan , a nation of 175 million, struggles for its very survival. The implications for the future of South Asia are enormous.

Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), Swat and other "wild" areas of Pakistan , with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of IDPs (internally displaced people) streaming into cities and towns. In February 2009, with the writ of the Pakistani state in tatters, the government gave in to the demand of the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan , the Pakistani Taliban Movement) to implement the Islamic Sharia in Malakand, a region of FATA. It also announced the suspension of a military offensive in Swat, which has been almost totally taken over by the TTP. But the respite that it brought was short-lived and started breaking down only hours later.

The fighting is now inexorably migrating towards Peshawar where, fearing the Taliban, video shop owners have shut shops, banners have been placed in bazaars declaring them closed for women, musicians are out of business, and kidnapping for ransom is the best business in town. Islamabad has already seen Lal Masjid and the Marriot bombing, and has had its police personnel repeatedly blown up by suicide bombers.

Today, its barricaded streets give a picture of a city under siege. In Karachi , the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), an ethnic but secular party well known for strong-arm tactics, has issued a call for arms to prevent the Taliban from making further inroads into the city. Lahore once appeared relatively safe and different but, after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, has rejoined Pakistan .

The suicide bomber and the masked abductor have crippled Pakistan 's urban life and shattered its national economy. Soldiers, policemen, factory and hospital workers, mourners at funerals, and ordinary people praying in mosques have been reduced to hideous masses of flesh and fragments of bones. The bearded ones, many operating out of madrassas, are hitting targets across the country. Although a substantial part of the Pakistani public insists upon lionising them as "standing up to the Americans", they are neither seeking to evict a foreign occupier nor fighting for a homeland. They want nothing less than to seize power and to turn Pakistan into their version of the ideal Islamic state. In their incoherent, ill-formed vision, this would include restoring the caliphate as well as doing away with all forms of western influence and elements of modernity. The AK-47 and the Internet, of course, would stay.

But, perhaps paradoxically, in spite of the fact that the dead bodies and shattered lives are almost all Muslim ones, few Pakistanis speak out against these atrocities. Nor do they approve of military action against the cruel perpetrators, choosing to believe that they are fighting for Islam and against an imagined American occupation. Political leaders like Qazi Husain Ahmed and Imran Khan have no words of kindness for those who have suffered from Islamic extremists. Their tears are reserved for the victims of predator drones, whether innocent or otherwise. By definition, for them terrorism is an act that only Americans can commit.

Why the Denial?

To understand Pakistan's collective masochism, one needs to study the drastic social and cultural transformations that have made this country so utterly different from what it was in earlier times. For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Indian subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian peninsula .

This continental drift is not physical but cultural, driven by a belief that Pakistan must exchange its South Asian identity for an Arab-Muslim one. Grain by grain, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are replacing the rich soil that had nurtured a rich Muslim culture in India for a thousand years. This culture produced Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal, the poetry of Asadullah Ghalib, and much more. Now a stern, unyielding version of Islam - Wahabism - is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the sufis and saints who had walked on this land for hundreds of years.

This change is by design. Twenty-five years ago, under the approving gaze of Ronald Reagan's America , the Pakistani state pushed Islam onto its people. Prayers in government departments were deemed compulsory, floggings were carried out publicly, punishments were meted out to those who did not fast in Ramadan, selection for university academic posts required that the candidate demonstrate knowledge of Islamic teachings, and jehad was declared essential for every Muslim.

Villages have changed drastically, driven in part by Pakistani workers returning from Arab countries. Many village mosques are now giant madrassas that propagate hard-line Salafi and Deobandi beliefs through oversized loudspeakers. They are bitterly opposed to Barelvis, Shias and other Muslims, who they do not consider to be proper Muslims. Punjabis, who were far more liberal towards women than Pashtuns, are now also beginning to take a line resembling the Taliban. Hanafi law has begun to prevail over tradition and civil law, as is evident from recent decisions in the Lahore High Court.

In the Pakistani lower-middle and middle-middle classes lurks a grim and humourless Saudi-inspired revivalist movement which frowns on every expression of joy and pleasurable pastime. Lacking any positive connection to history, culture and knowledge, it seeks to eliminate "corruption" by regulating cultural life and seizing control of the education system.

"Classical music is on its last legs in Pakistan ; the sarangi and vichtarveena are completely dead," laments Mohammad Shehzad, a music aficionado. Indeed, teaching music in public universities is violently opposed by students of the Islami Jamaat-e-Talaba at Punjab University . Religious fundamentalists consider music haram. Kathak dancing, once popular with the Muslim elite of India , has no teachers left. Pakistan produces no feature films of any consequence.

As a part of General Zia-ul-Haq's cultural offensive, Hindi words were expunged from daily use and replaced with heavy-sounding Arabic ones. Persian, the language of Mughal India , had once been taught as a second or third language in many Pakistani schools. But, because of its association with Shiite Iran, it too was dropped and replaced with Arabic. The morphing of the traditional "khuda hafiz" (Persian for "God be with you") into "allah hafiz" (Arabic for "God be with you") took two decades to complete. The Arab import sounded odd and contrived, but ultimately the Arabic God won and the Persian God lost.

Genesis of Jehad

One can squarely place the genesis of religious militancy in Pakistan to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the subsequent efforts of the U.S.-Pakistan-Saudi grand alliance to create and support the Great Global Jehad of the 20th century. A toxic mix of imperial might, religious fundamentalism, and local interests ultimately defeated the Soviets. But the network of Islamic militant organisations did not disappear after it achieved success. By now the Pakistani Army establishment had realised the power of jehad as an instrument of foreign policy, and so the network grew from strength to strength.

The amazing success of the state is now turning out to be its own undoing. Today the Pakistan Army and establishment are under attack from religious militants, and rival Islamic groups battle each other with heavy weapons. Ironically, the same Army - whose men were recruited under the banner of jehad, and which saw itself as the fighting arm of Islam - today stands accused of betrayal and is almost daily targeted by Islamist suicide bombers. Over 1,800 soldiers have died as of February 2009 in encounters with religious militants, and many have been tortured before decapitation. Nevertheless, the Army is still ambivalent in its relationship with the jehadists and largely focusses upon India .

Education or Indoctrination?

The commonly expressed view in Pakistan is that Islamic radicalism is a problem only in FATA, and that madrassas are the only jehad factories around. This could not be more wrong. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan 's towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this kind of education will produce a generation incapable of living together with any except strictly their own kind. Pakistan's education system demands that Islam be understood as a complete code of life, and creates in the mind of the schoolchild a sense of siege and constant embattlement by stressing that Islam is under threat everywhere.

The government-approved curriculum, prepared by the Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education, is the basic road map for transmitting values and knowledge to the young. By an Act of Parliament, passed in 1976, all government and private schools (except for O-level schools) are required to follow this curriculum. It is a blueprint for a religious fascist state.

The world of the Pakistani school child was largely unchanged even after September 11, 2001, which led to Pakistan 's timely desertion of the Taliban and the slackening of the Kashmir jehad. Indeed, for all his hypocritical talk of "enlightened moderation", Musharraf's educational curriculum was far from enlightening. It was a slightly toned-down copy of that under Nawaz Sharif which, in turn, was identical to that under Benazir Bhutto, who inherited it from Zia-ul-Haq.

Fearful of taking on powerful religious forces, every incumbent government refused to take a position on the curriculum and thus quietly allowed young minds to be moulded by fanatics. What might happen a generation later has always been a secondary matter for a government challenged on so many sides.

The promotion of militarism in Pakistan 's so-called "secular" public schools, colleges and universities had a profound effect upon young minds. Militant jehad became part of the culture on college and university campuses. Armed groups flourished, invited students for jehad in Kashmir and Afghanistan , set up offices throughout the country, collected funds at Friday prayers, and declared a war without borders. Pre-9/11, my university was ablaze with posters inviting students to participate in the Kashmir jehad. After 2001, this slipped below the surface.

The madrassas

The primary vehicle for Saudi-ising Pakistan 's education has been the madrassa. In earlier times, these had turned out the occasional Islamic scholar, using a curriculum that essentially dates from the 11th century with only minor subsequent revisions. But their principal function had been to produce imams and muezzins for mosques, and those who eked out an existence as "moulvi sahibs" teaching children to read the Quran.

The Afghan jehad changed everything. During the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan , madrassas provided the U.S.-Saudi-Pakistani alliance the cannon fodder needed for fighting a holy war. The Americans and the Saudis, helped by a more-than-willing General Zia, funded new madrassas across the length and breadth of Pakistan .

A detailed picture of the current situation is not available. But, according to the national education census, which the Ministry of Education released in 2006, Punjab has 5,459 madrassas followed by the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) with 2,843; Sindh 1,935; Federally Administrated Northern Areas (FANA) 1,193; Balochistan 769; Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) 586; FATA 135; and Islamabad capital territory 77. The Ministry estimates that 1.5 million students are getting religious education in the 13,000 madrassas. These figures could be quite off the mark. Commonly quoted figures range between 18,000 and 22,000 madrassas. The number of students could be correspondingly larger. The free room, board and supplies to students, form a key part of their appeal. But the desire of parents across the country is for children to be "disciplined" and to be given a thorough Islamic education. This is also a major contributing factor. Madrassas have deeply impacted upon the urban environment. For example, until a few years ago, Islamabad was a quiet, orderly, modern city different from all others in Pakistan . Still earlier, it had been largely the abode of Pakistan 's hyper-elite and foreign diplomats. But the rapid transformation of its demography brought with it hundreds of mosques with multi-barrelled audio-cannons mounted on minarets, as well as scores of madrassas illegally constructed in what used to be public parks and green areas. Now, tens of thousands of their students with little prayer caps dutifully chant the Quran all day. In the evenings they swarm around the city, making bare-faced women increasingly nervous.

Women - the Lesser Species

Total separation of the sexes is a central goal of the Islamists. Two decades ago the fully veiled student was a rarity on Pakistani university and college campuses. The abaya was an unknown word in Urdu; it is a foreign import. But today, some shops in Islamabad specialise in abaya. At colleges and universities across Pakistan , female students are seeking the anonymity of the burqa. Such students outnumber their sisters who still dare show their faces.

While social conservatism does not necessarily lead to violent extremism, it does shorten the path. Those with beards and burqas are more easily convinced that Muslims are being demonised by the rest of the world. The real problem, they say, is the plight of the Palestinians, the decadent and discriminatory West, the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Kashmir issue, the Bush doctrine, and so on. They vehemently deny that those committing terrorist acts are Muslims or, if faced by incontrovertible evidence, say it is a mere reaction to oppression. Faced with the embarrassment that 200 schools for girls were blown up in Swat by Fazlullah's militants, they wriggle out by saying that some schools were housing the Pakistan Army, who should be targeted anyway.

The Prognosis

The immediate future is not hopeful: increasing numbers of mullahs are creating cults around themselves and seizing control over the minds of worshippers. In the tribal areas, a string of new Islamist leaders have suddenly emerged: Sufi Mohammad, Baitullah Mehsud, Fazlullah, Mangal Bagh.... The enabling environment of poverty, deprivation, lack of justice, and extreme differences of wealth is perfect for these demagogues. Their gruesome acts of terror and public beheadings are still being perceived by large numbers of Pakistanis as part of the fight against imperialist America and, sometimes, India as well. This could not be more wrong.

The jehadists have longer-range goals. A couple of years ago, a Karachi-based monthly magazine ran a cover story on the terrorism in Kashmir . One fighter was asked what he would do if a political resolution were found for the disputed valley. Revealingly, he replied that he would not lay down his gun but turn it on the Pakistani leadership, with the aim of installing an Islamic government there.

Over the next year or two, we are likely to see more short-lived "peace accords", as in Malakand, Swat and, earlier on, in Shakai. In my opinion, these are exercises in futility. Until the Pakistan Army finally realises that Mr. Frankenstein needs to be eliminated rather than be engaged in negotiations, it will continue to soft-pedal on counter-insurgency. It will also continue to develop and demand from the U.S. high-tech weapons that are not the slightest use against insurgents. There are some indications that some realisation of the internal threat is dawning, but the speed is as yet glacial.

Even after Mumbai-II occurs, India 's options in dealing with nuclear Pakistan will be severely limited. Cross-border strikes should be dismissed from the realm of possibilities. They could lead to escalations that neither government would have control over. I am convinced that India 's prosperity - and perhaps its physical survival - demands that Pakistan stays together. Pakistan could disintegrate into a hell, where different parts are run by different warlords. Paradoxically perhaps, India 's most effective defence could be the Pakistan Army, torn and fractured though it may be. To convert a former enemy army into a possible ally will require that India change tack.

To create a future working alliance with the struggling Pakistani state, and in deference to basic democratic principles, India must be seen as genuinely working towards some kind of resolution of the Kashmir issue. It must not deny that the majority of Kashmiri Muslims are deeply alienated from the Indian state and that they desperately seek balm for their wounds. Else the forces of cross-border jehad, and its hate-filled holy warriors, will continue to receive unnecessary succour.

I shall end this rather grim essay on an optimistic note: the forces of irrationality will surely cancel themselves out because they act in random directions, whereas reason pulls in only one. History leads us to believe that reason will triumph over unreason, and humans will continue their evolution towards a higher and better species. Ultimately, it will not matter whether we are Pakistanis, Indians, Kashmiris, or whatever. Using ways that we cannot currently anticipate, people will somehow overcome their primal impulses of territoriality, tribalism, religion and nationalism. But for now this must be just a hypothesis.

Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy is Professor and Chairman of the Physics Department at Quaid-e-Azam University , Islamabad .

Friday, May 8, 2009

Elect those who choose India as life-force
March 09, 2009

Tarun Vijay
Surrounded by failed States and terror dens, India needs a strong leadership that will not hesitate to take punitive action against the erring State or non-State 'player' and organise the strength to withstand a spillover. Wars and inner conflicts are not won with machines. You got to have a heart that's firm and courageous. The war machine's role is secondary.

India was never so vulnerable and foolishly spineless as it stands today. Not because we do not have the power to defend our people and land but because of a leadership that's a delight of the alien invaders and petty boat infiltrators. Our leaders join politics to earn money and sell conscience -- they have no credentials except to boast of a family name or caste and muscle power. We have a galaxy of non-political leadership but that too boot polishes the nincompoop rulers in search of reflected glory. These holy men and women are so detached from the realities of their nation's pains and agonies that they go on a six-month long world tour for establishing peace in Palestine and Iraq and show off their pictures in the galleries of the United Nations as proof of their expanding influence. And surely they get quite a number of gullible people to believe they are great.

And we are increasingly surrounded by a Nepal, once a Hindu nation and now a threat for Hindu survival. We have a Pakistan and Bangladesh that have bled us continuously for the last three decades of intermittent terror wars -- Khalistan, Operation Topac, the jihad in Kashmir and the ignominious forced exodus of Kashmiri Hindus.

We have lost more than 60,000 Indians in terror attacks directly sponsored and encouraged by Pakistan -- whether its army or Inter Services Intelligence or the sheepish conspiratorial silence of their leaders, only the naive would make a difference and absolve the culprits. The simple arithmetic is that Pakistan, a creation of intense hate against Hindus, has always felt a sadistic pleasure at our discomfiture. It's the very basic element of Pakistan that has not let us live in peace since August 14, 1947.

But we refuse to see history and continue to lose geography.

Post-1947, we have lost more than 1.25 lakh square kilometres of land to Pakistan and China and Indian Parliament had passed a unanimous resolution to take the lost land back.

But not a single political party would dare to mention in its election manifesto that if voted to power it would strive its hardest possible to implement Parliament's resolve.


Cats would remain cats unless they are born as tigers.

The last 100 years has seen India shrinking to half and the Hindu population being overwhelmed by a demographic invasion that hates to see Hindu dominance in any sphere of life. They have vanished from Kabul, Balochistan, Pakhtunistan, Multan and Dhaka, humiliated in Kathmandu, killed, converted and incapacitated in Sri Lanka [Images], turned invisible in Sindh, Rawalpindi, Lahore [Images] and Chittagong, driven out of their last bastion in the saffron valley and increasingly reduced in Nagaland, Arunacahal, Mizoram and Jammu. And we fight over sackfuls of currency notes as we saw during trust vote on the nuke deal and are busy winning votes through dramas like a night's stay in a Dalit home.

That's India of today -- reduced to an Orwellian play by murderers and bribe-seekers who are again seeking an entry to Parliament by investing huge chunks of money.

There are those who still believe that Pakistan will, or it can, or it may become brotherly to us. Perhaps Uncle Sam, now Chacha Obama [Images], will help.

Even Gods refuse to help such worms.

Elect those who at least know a little bit of India and love her people. A leader that wouldn't hesitate to serve from South Block even if it means incurring personal monetary loss, but inspiring newcomers to stand and live proudly on their earnings through labour and merit. Living on peoples' money must come to an end. Forget the temples, mosques and churches for a while and just concentrate on two basic factors, removing illiteracy and bringing every fellow Indian above the poverty line with a one-year period as deadline. It has to be on a real war footing to make up for the losses due to a lethargic, vision less and self-serving leadership.

Trust me, we can do it if we have the will. Have courses in science, mathematics, engineering and technology upgraded, spread out and quality marked. We terribly lack in the manufacturing sector because there is not enough engineering talent available. Even the best of engineering colleges are facing a serious dearth of proper faculty and it results in less than appropriately equipped students. It's good to see a number of technology and engineering colleges, institutes and private universities that have sprung up in most of the cities and metros that must be the envy of even a developed nation. But are they really providing what they announce and do they have the right kind of facilities and infrastructure to produce credible graduates confident enough to start a swadeshi enterprise of world class standards?

If a post-World War America, Japan [Images] and Europe can rebuild their ravaged countries into models of modern development and human endeavour, why can't we? Why can't we set our own goals and standards that must make the most developed nation too follow us? Swami Vivekananda said all expansion is life and all contraction is death. Barring politics, we have shown the world the extraordinary capabilities and the astounding acumen to achieve the impossible in recent years. It happened, as is said, in spite of bad politicians. Let a new crop of good politicians take over Parliament and change its fossilised and stinking contours to a vibrant new hope commensurate with the professionalism being exhibited by Indians elsewhere.

And this is not at all age related but only needs a mind and heart that works for the nation.

And they must have the sinews to expand militarily unabashedly. India must show a will and the power to control her region. We are bled because of a meaningless large-heartedness that makes jihad factories on both sides of our territory send mercenary self-destructionist lunatics who kill and maim and destroy our people and city life. Bangladesh and Pakistan have got to be brought to their senses through instilling fear in them, a genuine and serious one. They have to be made to think twice before being silent or encouraging an anti-India terror policy. State policy makers must be clear in their mind that sometimes revenge is the only word the enemy understands and why must we not avenge the brutal killings of our patriotic citizens?

Hence choose those who choose India as their life-force and not just a platform for money making and dying like dirt. The choice is yours to practice in the coming elections.

In haste, a Maoist retreat
5 May 2009,

Tarun Vijay
Prachanda should have read Mao more carefully. He adopted a non-Nepali revolutionary leader of a neighbouring country as his hero and named his band of terrorists People's Liberation Army (PLA), exactly after the Chinese Communist army. But he forgot to do his homework. Mao had always warned against taking action "in haste" and "impetuously". His famous line: "We should not be impetuous; impetuosity leads only to failure."

This time Mao proved true for his errant follower.

In any case, an ideology based on violence and inspired by an alien school of thought is bound to fail in a deeply religious and nationalist country like Nepal. Prachanda, or Pushpa Kamal Dahal, rode over the crest of an artificial revolution romantically praised by India's failed communists and their secular cohorts and became the prime minister promising democracy and friendship with coalition partners who supported him hoping this may stop Maoists going back to the jungle, as was 'threatened' by the extreme communist leaders. No doubt Indian communists, led by an overwhelmingly influential CPM leader facilitated, and rejoiced at this change-over in Kathmandu, which saw the Hindu nation tag removed as the first show of strength of the first "revolutionary republican government" led by the red flag.

Prachanda, changing Nepalese tradition, took oath in a western three-piece suite and went to China before he shook hands with the Indian leaders in Delhi. His diplomatic skills were in full swing when he tried to impress the Hindu nationalist political leaders with his glib talk of comparing Nepal-India relations with Janakpur-Ayodhya civilizational links. Soon the mask was off with his "assault" on the Pashupatinath temple's sanctity and orders to change the chief priest who happened to be of Indian origin following hundreds of years tradition. It created a public furore and he had retract. He next misstep followed soon, indicating he had not learnt his lessons well and instead of concentrating on governance and the mandated mission of constitution writing, began pressing the army chief to have his rogues of the PLA inducted into the regular army. The army chief refused logically and got instant support from Maoists' coalition partners and the president, who is the constitutional head of the armed forces. There was enough time the president provided a reason to Prachanda to take back his decision, but he made it an ego issue and chose a dramatic exit.

This may prove to be a blessing in disguise for Nepalese people and Maoists both.

Prachanda wanted his PLA rogues, highly indoctrinated and intoxicated on a terror ideology, inducted into the Nepalese army of accomplished and trained soldiers so that in due course he would hold a complete control over the government and the security forces, becoming an unquestioned ruler of Nepal like it had happened in many east Asian countries where communists came to power using the democratic means but once established, completely ruined the democratic norms and decimated the non-communist parties paving the way for a communist totalitarianism.

A presidential intervention and the army chief's flat refusal to yield to an unconstitutional pressure changed the scene and as I write this column, a coalition of Nepalese Congress and Communist party of Nepal United Maoist-Leninist, led by the suave and soft-spoken democrat Madhav Nepal is expected to form a non-Maoist government invited by President Ram Baran Yadav.

Not surprisingly Prachanda's colleagues severely criticized the army chief accusing him of acting under the instructions of a foreign power (read India). But almost the entire Nepal felt a great relief seeing Prachanda resigning and though there were usual demonstrations on Kathmandu's roads by Red Flags, it hardly created a ripple or sympathy.

For the last two months Nepal had been in a state of uneasy silence. Most of the democratic parties were seen sending signals of disquiet over Maoists' bulldozer governance, and efforts to change the profile of police, administration, judiciary and the education department. Heads of departments were sacked or compelled to seek retirement, seniority of officers was ignored and those considered "closer" to the Maoists family were inducted and promoted. Though Prachanda had shown a deftly crafted diplomatic skill when he visited India and even impressed the leaders of the Hindu right, he was rude to his coalition partners, on whose support depended his government's survival and didn't feel obliged to take them into confidence before taking any major decision.

He was also under tremendous pressure from his erstwhile terror outfits that he had promised almost everything under the sun. Having joined a democratically elected government he felt it was difficult, if not impossible to implement those promises that required bending laws and twisting procedures. Those included induction of PLA into the regular army, jobs for ill-trained and half-skilled cadres spread out in the remote villages, making Maoist functionaries part of the government by providing various important posts which "yielded" benefits. He was at pains to explain to the cadre that it was "not a Maoist regime but a coalition government just led by them". Maoist cadre won't listen. They saw their leaders at the top wearing expensive watches and living in luxury and felt why shouldn't be they acting the way they had promised. In a way, the resignation of Prachanda has given an opportunity to the Maoist leaders to save their cadre from disintegration and frustration and directing anger publicly against their leaders who were being blamed for enjoying the fruits of the labours of ground-level workers.

It was this pressure from the cadre that made him act to effect changes in the Pashupatinath temple and then sack the army chief. Both the decisions boomeranged.

Nepalese people, his coalition partners and the opposition showed an extraordinary solidarity against the Maoists. Though he silently took back the Pashupatinath temple decision to change the head priest, his hotheaded colleagues prevailed on him to disregard the army chief's reply to his notice and the sagacious advice of the president bringing him to a point of no return. He appointed Kul Bahadur Khadka as the acting army chief because he thought he would help PLA cadre to be inducted through back door. His major failure was to make the people believe he was serious in governance and implementing the mandate's main purpose - writing the new constitution. Everything else would have followed if he had shown some patience and prudence.

He utterly failed to gauge the mood of the people post-Pashupatinath imbroglio and the fact that 18 political parties of Nepal petitioned to the president to stop Maoists removing the army chief shows the extent to which Prachanda and his people had lost confidence of all within the political system.

The best way for the frustrated Maoists now is to play martyr and blame, as usual everything on India. The South Block, which had followed a policy of wait and watch till the elections are over and new government with a clear Nepal policy has been sworn in, is in for a barrage of attacks not only from the leftist press of Kathmandu but also from the "friendly" pals of the Maoists in Delhi. So far Indian political parties, including the BJP and the Congress have reacted cautiously and indicated that it's the Nepalese people whose wishes must reign supreme. That's the right way.

Maoist will try every trick - threaten to go back to the jungles, start violence once again, take to the streets and force decisions through bullying. Kathmandu's political fraternity must stay firm and united against all this and start governing the way Nepal aspires. Maoists have lost the steam and can't go too far now.

India must keep its options open and as always support the real democratic players to take charge of their country. Maoists are a dangerous game for Indian security and strategic policies. We are already facing diplomatic tsunamis on our left, right and on the southern tip. Another flash point on the border with Nepal, having an immature left extremist group playing ping-pong with Beijing would be ill-affordable for us.

Kathmandu needs patience and a cool decision-making procedure. Its democratic institutions must be given time and the right atmosphere to mature and keep the weeds of violence out so that the Shangri La doesn't turn into a hub of communist violence. Though President Ram Baran Yadav has asked Prachanda to continue till the next government takes over, in the present scenario, Madhav Nepal's chances to take the prime ministership in a Nepali Congress-supported coalition seem to be the workable choice left to restore peace and a sense of democratic confidence in Nepal.

Monday, May 4, 2009

सत्य का सत्ता से संघर्ष

तरुण विजय
May 03, 2009
क्वात्रोची मामले में सीबीआई पर सोनिया गाधी की अध्यक्षता वाले संप्रग शासन द्वारा डाले गए दबाव के रहस्योद्घाटन से एक बार पुन: वे विकृतिया उजागर हुई हैं जो उन संस्थानो को खत्म कर रही हैं जिन पर राष्ट्र की व्यवस्था टिकी है। व्यवस्थाओं का निर्माण कर उन्हें संरक्षित और सुदृढ़ करना लोकतात्रिक समाज का धर्म होता है। क्वात्रोची मामले ने उन दिनो की याद ताजा कर दी जब इंदिरा गाधी के शासनकाल में चुन-चुनकर राज्य व्यवस्था को आधार देने वाली संस्थाएं खत्म की जा रही थीं। न्यायमूर्ति जगमोहन लाल सिन्हा के विरुद्ध प्रदर्शन किए गए और उनके पुतले फूंके गए। प्रतिबद्ध न्यायपालिका की प्रस्तावना, संसद को सर्वोच्च न्यायालय के सामने संघर्ष की स्थिति में ला खड़ा कर संसद की अवधि पाच से छह साल तक बढ़ाना, शासन व्यवस्था में चाटुकार और वफादार अफसरों की वरिष्ठता क्रम तोड़कर नियुक्तियों द्वारा आईएएस तथा आईपीएस जैसी अखिल भारतीय सेवाओं का अतिशय राजनीतिकरण वस्तुत: 70 के दशक से प्रारंभ हुआ। तब राष्ट्रपति पद के अधिकृत पार्टी उम्मीदवार नीलम संजीव रेड्डी की जगह वीवी गिरि को समर्थन देकर इंदिरा गाधी ने पार्टी ही दोफाड़ कर दी थी। आपातकाल लागू कर विपक्ष को जेल भेजना तथा असहमति में उठे नागरिकों पर अत्याचार करना उसी राजनीतिक दृष्टि का परिणाम था जिसने 34 साल बाद भी शासकीय व्यवस्था को इटली के अपराधी क्वात्रोची के बचाव के लिए मनमाने ढंग से इस्तेमाल किया। क्वात्रोची के लंदन स्थित बैंक खाते को बंधनमुक्त कर उसे पैसे निकालने की अनुमति दिए जाते समय भी भाजपा सहित अनेक दलों ने आपत्ति उठाई थी, लेकिन संभवत: भारत में सत्ता पक्ष ात्र छोटी-सी झलक दिखाती हैं। देश राष्ट्रीय और समग्र भारत के स्तर पर सोचने वाले नेताओं का अभाव महसूस कर रहा है। राजनीति के स्थानीयकरण ने उन संस्थाओं की पद्धतिया ही नष्ट करनी चाही हैं जो विधायिका तथा प्रशासन को परिवारों या व्यक्तियों के प्रति नहीं, बल्कि संविधान और कानून के प्रति निष्ठावान बनाती हैं। यह तब हो रहा है जब भारत तालिबानी पाकिस्तान, अस्थिर माओवादी नेपाल, जिहादी बांग्लादेश और आतरिक संघर्ष में घायल श्रीलंका से घिरा हुआ है। इसके साथ भारत की अपनी आतरिक सुरक्षा इस्लामी तथा मार्क्सवादी दावे करने वाले आतंकवादी संगठनों के आक्रमण झेल रही है। ऐसी स्थिति में सामान्य जन राजनीतिक दलों की अपनी आपसी चखचख और वोट-बैंक जुटाने के लिए राष्ट्रद्रोह तक जाने वाली कोशिशों के बजाय आतंकवाद निर्मूलन के लिए सभी दलों की सहमति देखना चाहता है। सीमित दायरों से ऊपर उठकर सोचने वाले कुछ विचारकों ने तो यहा तक कहा है कि यदि देश को अच्छी तरह चलाने के लिए भाजपा और काग्रेस एक 'न्यूनतम साझा कार्यक्रम' के अंतर्गत सरकार चलाने पर राजी हो जाएं तो सबसे अच्छा होगा। हालाकि इस विचार को दोनों ही दलों के नेताओं ने खारिज किया है, लेकिन यह बात जनसामान्य द्वारा एक अच्छी, आपसी घृणारहित, ऐसी सरकार देखने की आकाक्षा बताती है जो देश को रक्षा और अर्थ के क्षेत्र में मजबूत बनाते हुए आम आदमी को बेहतर ढाचागत सुविधाएं उपलब्ध करवाए।

हाल ही में मुझे पुणे के प्रसिद्ध गरवारे कालेज में व्याख्यान के लिए आमंत्रित किया गया था। वहां उच्च स्तरीय व्यावसायिक प्रशिक्षण प्राप्त कर रहे अधिकाश छात्रों ने जो प्रश्न पूछे उनका सार कुछ ऐसा था-अगर केंद्र सरकार के पास स्विट्जरलैंड में जमा काले धन और उनके खाताधारकों की सूची है तो उनके विरुद्ध कार्रवाई क्यों नहीं होती? भारत की पुलिस और अर्धसैनिक बलों को युद्ध की भाति एक निश्चित समयसीमा और निर्णय की स्वतंत्रता देकर आतंकवाद निर्मूलन के लिए जिम्मेदारी क्यों नहीं दी जाती? जो राजनेता पढ़ा-लिखा नहीं और जिन पर अनेक गर्हित अपराधों के आरोपपत्र दाखिल हो चुके हैं उन्हें त्वरित अदालतों में क्यों नहीं भेजा जाता? भारत में नागरिक राज्य सत्ता और कानून से समानरूपेण व्यवहार पाने के बजाए मजहब और जाति के आधार पर विशेषाधिकार क्यों प्राप्त करता है? पिछडे़, अति पिछड़े, महाअतिपिछड़े जैसी सूचिया क्या सामाजिक समरसता को पुष्ट करती हैं? इन प्रश्नों के उत्तर वे दे सकते हैं जो राज्य सत्ता पर अंकुश रखने का नैतिक बल रखते हों। इस बार अनेक गैरराजनीतिक जनसंगठन और उनके मार्गदर्शक भारत एवं भारतीयता की रक्षा के लिए आगे आए हैं। यह भारतीय लोकतंत्र के लिए एक शुभ संकेत है। जहा आरएसएस केनए सरसंघचालक मोहन भागवत ने शत प्रतिशत तक मतदान का आह्वान किया है वहीं श्री श्री रविशकर तथा उनके साधक- सहयोगी भारत जागरण का अभियान चला रहे हैं।

इसी प्रकार संत-धार्मिक नेता लोकतात्रिक जागरण के लिए सक्रिय हुए हैं। भारत और भारतीयता के लिए राजनीति निरपेक्ष धर्म जागरण के लिए अखाड़ा परिषद के वीतरागी साधुओं की सक्रियता बंकिम रचित आनंद मठ के योद्धा संन्यासियों का स्मरण कराती है। क्या ये प्रयास और लोक-आह्वान के गैरराजनीतिक स्वर निष्फल जाएंगे? नि:संदेह आज सत्य का सत्ता की अपावनता से संघर्ष है। अगर हम सत्यमेव जयते में विश्वास रखते हैं तो यह भी विश्वास करना होगा कि भारत एक महान नियति को प्राप्त करने बढ़ रहा है। वर्तमान कलुष वैसे ही हैं जैसे सागर मंथन में निकला हालाहल।

[तरुण विजय: लेखक वरिष्ठ स्तंभकार हैं]

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Seeking Spiritual Anchor

Ideology is a casualty of today’s politics of expediency
• Tarun Vijay

There was a time when India’s polity was marked by decency and had a focus on ideology. Not any more. The biggest casualties of this election have been civility in public debate and ideological issues. The campaign is run on cacophony and strength is measured in decibels.

Modern ideological assertion is an import from the West. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The German Ideology referred to the word ideology: “Ideology consists of reflexes and echoes, it is bound to material processes, has no semblance of independence, no history, no development”. Marx died in 1883. In 1890, Engels expressed a different view to Joseph Bloch. Ideology was no longer confined to reflexes and echoes; it was linked to history and development and became a part of real life, exercising a decisive influence. For us, the word that would define a way of belief and practice is dharma.

Marxist ideology failed in less than 100 years of its exposition and what remains is a market economy with Stalin’s posters or a few incoherent, violent groups in India and Nepal. By contrast, the Hindutva school of thought in India, despite hurdles and the resistance of an influential Anglicised class, grew to affect and rewrite the political agenda.

Deendayal Upadhyaya, while presenting his theses on ‘integral humanism’, stressed the spiritual urge of society, where the individual is part of the whole and the whole is reflected in individual actions as dharma. This relegates materialism, which predominates in capitalism and communism, to a secondary position. The hope is to put the brakes on inhuman competitive instincts acting upon an insatiable ‘have more’ mantra, killing society’s nobler virtues. Upadhyaya said this mantra goes against the historical ethos of the Hindu civilisation, whose dominant trait is giving while earning,a virtuous gift. Self-aggrandisement being considered a dehumanised value, the mantra is: earn to give. Even the BJP has been accused of ideological dilution for the sake of electoral winnability.

Post-independence, it became difficult for all ideological assertions to be reflected in a system that basically rested on the Graeco-Roman world view and was a product of an alien historical process. Initially, Gandhian values of simplicity and humility in public life were respected. Those were the times we still had leaders of depth and vision like B R Ambedkar, J B Kripalani, Purushottam Das Tandon, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Sardar Patel, Sampoornanand, K M Munshi, Ram Manohar Lohia, Acharya Narendra Dev and Hiren Mukherji. And then we had Jawaharlal Nehru, who drew strong criticism as well as praise for his deep-rooted belief in socialism. They differed strongly but their concern for the nation was unquestionable.

With the advent of the politics of expediency, a Gandhian ashram of ideas was turned into a mandi trading in votes, relegating ideological diversity to irrelevance and irreverence. Since political parties were no more than a conglomeration of certain interest groups, even ideology was defined in terms of material activity such as construction of roads and supply of energy. Political power became a goal in itself, not a vehicle to achieve greater purposes and execute visionary plans.

Though post-1947, there were stray cases of corruption in high places, like the jeep scandal and the Mundhra case, these were small yet created a furore. The guilty were not honoured in political circles and people would rise in revolt and revulsion against them. Not any more. With the breaking of the Congress and the games played with institutions like the judiciary and bureaucracy, Indira Gandhi institutionalised political corruption. It became accepted, normal behaviour for a politician to treat the issue as a non-issue. Self-interest and winning elections became goals in themselves; even a semblance of virtuous public behaviour became a matter for jokes and mockery.

Hence those who people Parliament, with charges of murder, extortion and corruption against them, become page-one politicians and secular symbols that define ‘grassroots’ politics. Except the Left and the Hindu right, there is hardly any political group that can claim to run on the basis of some ideological assertion and functional democratic inner-party norms. If it is father-and-son in the National Conference, the PDP is run by the Muftis, the BSP by Mayawati, the Samajwadi Party by Mulayam Singh, the DMK by M Karunanidhi and Stalin, the AIADMK by Jayalalithaa, the Congress by Sonia Gandhi and the Biju Janata Dal by Naveen Patnaik. The danger of such a fragmented polity becomes starker in times of crisis.

We are a nation surrounded by a failed state like Talibanised Pakistan (Hillary Clinton’s statement about Pakistan abdicating to the Taliban is unprecedented and also an alarm bell for New Delhi), Bangladesh where jihad churns, Nepal where the Maoists are messing around with the system, Sri Lanka which is mishandling the Tamil issue and, above all, China which looks over our shoulders. Add these factors to internal terror wars. If, despite these problems, we have not only survived but a small section has marched ahead, the credit must solely go to the resilience of the Indian people.

Compare India with its neighbours to appreciate the intrinsic civilisational strength of this country which is under assault from a de-culturised polity that concocts stories to malign a people and their land. India needs more than coalitions without ideological contours, as well as a pan-Indian attitude.