Thursday, October 18, 2018
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Need to abandon Hate
2018.04.26 16:00:32

The ongoing debate that is raging basically on the progressive extinction of the, “Idea of India” in the Indian Express’s the “Ideas Page” is fascinating. The debate in the newspaper was provoked by Harsh Mander to which a rather aggressive response came from Ram Chandra Guha, the noted historian and columnist. The field then somehow widened up and numerous, according to Guha’s count around 14, independent thinkers ventilated their own thoughts.

In his latest piece Harsh Mander has expressed his anguish on the wrong direction the debate was shepherded by Ram Chandra Guha. He picked up as a thread the mention by Mander of the injunction of a Dalit leader meant for Muslims not to wear burkas or skull caps if and when they happened to attend his political rallies. Mander’s anguish was born out of a general absence of appreciation of the fact of Muslim marginalization. He was appreciative of the coverage by Rahul Gandhi, the newly--crowned president of the Indian National Congress, of the country’s socio-economic condition. He, according to Mander, ably talked of everything from economics to politics in his first address to his party men at the Talkatora Stadium. But what hurt Mander was the conspicuous absence in his address of the rising tide of violence against Muslims under the current regimes at the Centre and numerous provinces.

Rahul Gandhi’s failure to mention the Muslim marginalization or attacks on them by the Hindu vigilantism could have a well-considered reason behind it, Although it is difficult to fathom the mind of a politician, howsoever green his horns might be, yet in case of Rahul Gandhi it could be conjectured that his new-found strategy of shaking off of the pro-Muslim tag attached to the Congress might be one of the reasons, or even the only reason. For too long has the country seen the Congress attempting to woo the Muslim vote by playing the card of secularism as opposed to the Hindu Fundamentalism of the BJP which the Congress always branded as communal. Come elections one would find Congress biggies trooping to mosques or for addressing the Muslim conclaves. Even in 2014 I remember Ms. Sonia Gandhi visiting the Delhi Jama Masjid on announcement of the polls.

Visiting Jama Masjid before the elections, by itself, cannot be held against Ms. Gandhi or the Congress Party. But the Congress over the years had displayed a tilt towards the Muslims while calling itself secular, whatever that meant. So, it was secularism with a tilt towards Muslims and this had come down to the Congress from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru seemed to have everything against Hindu bigotry and obscurantism but none against the Islamic varieties. His tilt was so pronounced that some political critics of his attributed ulterior motives to his resistance to the idea of exchange of population at the time of partition as, they said, he wanted Muslims in India as the vote bank of the Congress. That may or may not be true; any sensitive person would find the idea of exchange of population nothing but abhorrent – as well as impossible.

Besides, at that time the Hindu-Muslim divide, as I know of it, was not so pronounced as it is today although the partition had just taken place followed by riots and mayhem. Growing up in the princely state of Gwalior we never felt the heat generated by the partition. Gwalior was typically a secular state where the Maharaja was revered by both Hindus and Muslims and he used to participate in Hindu and Muslim festivals with equal verve and passion. After stray instances of communal killings the town quietened down and we never heard of the divide, though some people known to us migrated to Pakistan and some even came back after having been to Karachi and witnessing the turmoil there.

My father, teaching in the local college, had his best friend in Professor MA Qureshy, who, incidentally, had two brothers in the ICS and lost one of them while migrating to Pakistan. Father’s Muslim students came to see him before they left for Pakistan. In our own small younger world of schools and colleges we had Muslim friends and it never occurred to us that they needed to be shunned. That was the culture that we were brought up in – a culture innocent of the divide – and secular, if that is the right word, to the core.

This environment continued for some years and as we grew up and started our own careers we slowly became aware of the changing atmosphere. And yet, I for one, can claim with some amount of pride that my attitude towards my Muslim subordinates or superiors remained the same – respect for them as fellow humans.

However, as elections became more combative and the fights became more vicious for power than for doing good to the country everything was sacrificed. In this deteriorating milieu the Indian composite culture was a notable, if not the first, casualty. Religion was used and misused to win votes and wield the state power. As corruption increased in the government and the pickings became hefty elections became more like dog-eat-dog fights and even creamiest of ideas – including the Idea of India – were sacrificed to win power and the pelf associated with it. Ideologies, if there were any, were made to rest on shelves gathering dust. The contests became free of all niceties of culture and civilized discourse.

So, if there is a Hindu- Muslim divide today, it is the so-called netas who have to take the blame for it. One dares say that Rahul Gandhi is not helping to diffuse the tensions by changing tack and visiting temples and ignoring the Muslims. He is playing with the same poison of communal politics for the sake of power. True, the British also indulged in the policy of “divide and rule” – making the two communities fight each other but the atmosphere hardly ever became as toxic as it is today. Even at the time of partition when a homeland for the Indian Muslims was created a larger number elected to remain wherever they were. In fact, the province from which shrill shrieks for “Pakistan” emanated had the largest number who decided to stay put.

In such a country how can we sustain ourselves with mutual hatred and enmity. We belong to the same stock, only our faith might be different. One’s faith cannot be be-all-and-end-all, more so when we are economically so retarded. Our efforts need to be directed towards education and enlightenment to enable us to live meaningful lives. We cannot be obsessed with hatred for each other that generally culminates in killing of innocents.

It is time to say enough is enough and cry a halt to this reprehensible politics of hate. It certainly does not behove us. For ages we have hosted people of varying persuasions and fostered among them the spirit of brotherhood and harmony. In the current enlightened age we cannot throw those priceless values out of the window. The civil society must come together to impress on the political parties to abandon the politics of hate and work together towards people’s betterment and a stronger India which, one presumes, are the goals of all political parties.


Tags: indian | society | needs | harmony

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Parliamentary Disrptions - Time for Hammer to Fall
2018.04.02 15:41:05

The serial disruption of the Indian Parliament has caused anger and anguish all over. While some people have been condemning the Congress for its thoughtless blocking of all business in the Upper House others have been blaming even the BJP – the ruling combine- of doing the same when the UPA was at the helm. If one comes to think of it, the politicians of all shades are the same. They only have craving for power and, if they cannot corner it, they would not allow those in power to govern. BJP, quite seemingly, is getting paid back in its own coin.

With the continued disruption of the two houses questions have already been asked about the relevance of the Parliament where no work is done. People have sent their representatives to this national constitutional body to legislate and work on their behalf. If that is not done where would be the rationale to constitute a parliament that is adjourned day after day on account of the uproar created by the elected representatives. In several sections of people disruptions are being reckoned as anti-democratic – harmful for democracy that has been so assiduously nursed and nurtured in the country. If the proceedings are blocked serially from one day to another and legislative work is hampered it certainly would be damaging to the faith of people in the Parliament and its legitimacy.

In a recent statement, even the Vice President, the Chairman of the Upper House has expressed his fear that people would lose faith in the Parliament if the disruptions continue. He has cited several reasons relating to the conduct of members that has given rise to misgivings in the minds of people who form the electorate. The Chairman cited, inter alia, criminal antecedents of members, dispensing favours by them for a consideration, spurt in assets after being elected, defections and electoral malpractices are what, he said, were eroding the faith of people in parliamentary democracy. This is further accentuated by indiscipline exhibited by members in the House, the daily uproar like that in a fish market that renders the Parliament ineffective to carry out its business.

“All is not well that ends up in the well (of the House)”. This is how the Chairman described the members’ indiscipline that is frequently witnessed in the two houses. Now the members have even graduated to carrying placards inside the House with slogans written on them as if it is a tussle or fight between a trade union and management. Worse is shouting of slogans inside the House. One recalls even as the Prime Minister was replying to the debate on the President’s address there were people of the Opposition constantly raising slogans right through the PM’s speech. Curiously, no cognizance was taken of this constant distraction by the leader of the Congress Party or the Speaker. If the Opposition was unhappy with the government there certainly were more decent ways of expressing them instead of trying to drown the PM’s speech in the racket and din of slogans. Causing disturbance or obstructing PM in his speech is highly reprehensible for the PM is head of the government who has been elected by a majority.  He can in no way be prevented from speaking his mind. Doing so is highly indecorous and unmannerly.

The Chairman’s own party is not quite innocent in this matter. Regardless of their all justifications, they too shouted and hollered to subdue the voices of the government when they were in Opposition. It has always been said that disruptions are what the Opposition will always attempt; it is the responsibility of the government to run the houses. That would mean while the Opposition would try its best to block proceedings the government should try and run the house. How can that be possible? If civilised debate cannot resolve the issues, should the government and the Opposition settle the matter after a physical duel? That is unthinkable in a democratic set up.

Only solution would seem to be to take strong action against those small numbers of people who choose to make avoidable and needless disturbances and keep them out of the House. That unfortunately cannot be done for the simple reason the chairpersons of the legislative houses have no such specific powers. He/she, it seems, can name a member for his undesirable behavior and on being so named such a member is expected to immediately withdraw from the House. That seldom happens in these days of falling standards of civic behavior.  Recourse to use of marshals is seldom taken.

In fact, the chairpersons have not been given any specific punitive power to maintain a semblance of a standard of behavior. At the same time they have the power to run the houses smoothly and efficiently, a wider interpretation of which perhaps, can be taken recourse to in extreme cases. The Constitution was framed in civiilised times when members were cultured and decent. It probably never occurred to the framers of the Constitution that a day might dawn on this land when the speakers of the several houses would need a whip to crack at elected representatives. The constitution makers probably never imagined that uncouth dregs and uncultured louts would be offered tickets for elections to the august bodies and, worse, they would even be elected

It is needless to emphasise that standards of behavior of the members have fallen over the years. Gone are the days of decent gentlemanly debates over matters on which the opposition had an utterly different view. Yet the members never crossed the line and maintained the dignity of the House as also their own. The first few parliaments were constituted of the finest of Indians who were highly civilized intellectual giants.

Nonetheless, in spite of the severe constraints the speakers of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu assemblies suspended practically the entire opposition for unruly behaviour and obstructing the proceedings. Although the action was criticized in the press as suspension of the entire opposition would tend to be anti-democratic. A house without an opposition cannot represent all interests of the people. But when the opposition opposes for the sake of opposition and does not allow the government to have its business conducted stern action would seemingly be necessary.

With efflux of time the standards fell and it is now plumbing the depths. The current Chairman of the Upper House has had occasion to mention that political parties have a responsibility to ensure people of proper antecedents are selected for being elected to legislative houses. If the Opposition is faulted on this score, the ruling party ought to equally be blamed. Their rough and crude quality has been revealed in several fracases in different legislative assemblies. When the objective is to wrest power at any cost quality of candidates is perhaps never in the reckoning

A day has now come when imploring a member disturbing the proceedings to sit down or keep quiet doesn’t quite work. What works is punitive action – an action that hurts a member’s image as well as his finances. It is, therefore, time now for the hammer to fall to keep and nurse the faith of people in democracy and democratic values. For too long have we been witness to the politics of the bizarre. By any stretch of imagination, disruption of the Parliament for almost three weeks is a bit too much.

Tags: indian | parliamentary | disruption

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Of Indian cars and their market
2017.07.07 19:19:25

For some time I had been thinking of changing my vehicle which I had had for more than seven years.  It was an Estillo from the Maruti Suzuki stable and had rendered me decent service. We do not dare to travel out of Bhopal on account of the reported road conditions. It, therefore, ran all through within the confines of the city. It was good and economical but was small – only of 3 cylinders and was of under 1000 cc. We wanted a slightly bigger vehicle wherein we could sit with greater comfort on the rear seats, now that both of us seldom drive.

Tags: cars | indian

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Of Indian cars and their market
2017.07.07 19:19:23

For some time I had been thinking of changing my vehicle which I had had for more than seven years.  It was an Estillo from the Maruti Suzuki stable and had rendered me decent service. We do not dare to travel out of Bhopal on account of the reported road conditions. It, therefore, ran all through within the confines of the city. It was good and economical but was small – only of 3 cylinders and was of under 1000 cc. We wanted a slightly bigger vehicle wherein we could sit with greater comfort on the rear seats, now that both of us seldom drive.

Tags: cars | indian

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Indian demonetisation: Pakistan's sinister designs forced Modi's hands
2016.12.16 18:59:44

The e-mails had been going round and round for sometime carrying the supposed facts regarding the reasons for the sudden demonetisation but one couldn’t really believe all that was conveyed in them. True, Modi had in his election campaign assured that he would fight the menace of black money and bring back all that was stashed away in banks abroad. But, two and a half years had gone by and yet nothing was seemingly moving on that front. He was, therefore, being baited and mocked at by the Opposition inside and outside the Parliament for his extravagant unfulfilled promises.

Tags: demonetisation | indian

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India's slipping values
2016.09.02 19:00:56

A photograph was recently published of a villager carrying his dead wife’s body on his shoulder while his daughter walked alongside crying all the way. The unfortunate incident happened somewhere in the interiors of the backward district of Kalahandi of the state of Odisha.

Tags: slipping | indian | values

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Corruption hindering growth and prosperity
2016.06.12 15:22:59

Rummaging through my collection of newspaper clippings I came across one that was of a fairly recent origin. Its sub-head said corruption remains major barrier to growth in India. This earth-shattering finding was made by as unlikely an organization as the World Economic Forum (WEF), a Swiss non-profit based near Geneva. Its mission is supposed to be "... improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas".

Tags: corruption | indian

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