Pseudo-Secularism

Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Friday, September 30, 2005

High Court notice to HRD

A bench of Delhi High Court, comprising Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Rekha Sharma, issued notices to Human Resource Development Ministry, NCERT and CBSE on September 14. The notices have been issued on a petition filed by Shri Dinanath Batra, Shri Vijay Shankar Shastri, Shri Inder Singh, Shri Ram Gopal and Shri Atul Rawat, under Article 226 of the Constitution. The petition sought direction or order for setting aside the decision of the government withdrawing the history text book written, published and prescribed in accordance with the NCFSE-2000 and also reintroducing the reprints of old history text books which were withdrawn by the government pursuant to implementing the NCFSE 2000. Senior advocate Shri R.P. Bansal, with Shri Rakesh Mahajan, Shri Prabhat Ranjan and Shri Rajiv Kumar argued the case on behalf of the petitioners. The next hearing of the case has been fixed for October 26, 2005.

The petitioners said: "The books on social science and history recently introduced by the NCERT for the academic year 2005-2006 is nothing but the same old books which were in circulation from 1966 to 2002 and were discontinued after the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE-2000) was implemented. Yet, in the publisher's note accompanying some of these books, it is falsely stated that these conform to NCFSE-2000."

The petitioners said the books should not have been introduced because they are irrelevant for the present day course structure. "It is against national interest to continue with textbooks which teach facts which are no longer right or uphold a pedagogy which has been discarded." The petition said that vast stretches of India were left out of these books. The histories of the northeast states and south India are just not included, whereas NCFSE-2000 had categorically stressed the study of all the regions. "From the point of view of promoting secularism, these books are counter-productive. The insults heaped on Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, etc. prove that these books are dangerous for the psyche of children and against the national objective of fostering communal harmony," the petition said.

Reverse discrimination and abuse

By M.G. Vaidya

Justice K. T. Thomas, retired judge of the Supreme Court has, recently written an article titled "Courts, Colleges, and Governments", in the The Hindu, August 30. In his article, he has passingly referred to Article 30 of our Constitution. This article is focussed on Article 30 alone.

Every reasonable person will fully agree with the Supreme Court's observation: "the real purpose of Article 30 is to prevent discrimination against members of minority communities and place them on an equal footing with non-minority; reverse discrimination was not the intention. " I have to say that in spite of the sanguine advice from the highest Court, this Article is bound to be abused by interested parties. Therefore it deserves to be deleted from our Constitution. I have come to the well-thought out conclusion that Article 30 is irrelevent, un-called for and mischievous too.

On the face of it the words of this Article appear innocuous, but they are not so. The Article reads as follows—"All minorities whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice." The first, the foremost and the fundamental question is which are the minority religions? Majority and minority are relative terms. Unless you define the majority religion, you cannot determine the minority religions. In the case of the languages it is easy to determine their majority and minority characters. For example, in Maharashtra, majority of people speak Marathi, therefore all people speaking any language other than Marathi i.e. Gujrati, Hindi, Kannada, etc. are linguistic minorities. But in the realm of religion, which is the majority religion? People are likely to answer that Hinduism is the majority religion. But the basic question is, is Hinduism a religion like Christianity or Islam? The Supreme Court has decreed that Hinduism is not a religion; it is a way of life. A way of life should connote a certain value-system which should ultimately mean culture. Any knowledgable person should be able to distinguish religion from culture. The explanation attached to Article 25 includes Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists in Hindus. The words are; "in sub-clause[b] of clause[2] reference to Hindus shall be construed as inclusing a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion and reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly." The Hindu Code Bill is applicable to Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists also. When Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was piloting this Bill in Parliament, a Sikh MP protested that the bill will obliterate the identity of the Sikhs. Dr Ambedkar gave a fitting reply and silenced him. It will be fruitful to quote Dr. S. Radhakrishan the great philosopher here. He observed "Hinduism is not a religion. It is a common-wealth of many religions." Nobody will dare accuse Dr Ambedkar or Dr Radhakrishan as having RSS leanings. So in the absence of a majority religion, there cannot be a minority religion on which any fundamental right could be conferred.

Is it proper that because the management is owned by a so-called religious minority, the institution becomes a minority institution eligible to reap all the advantages of its minority character?

Presuming but not admitting that Christainity and Islam or for that matter, Sikhism, Jainism or Buddhism are minority religions, what prevents them from establishing their educational instititions? The Constitution is very explicit and unambiguous about it. Article 14 guarantees equality before law. It says, "The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India."

Article 15 explains this fundamental guarantee. It lays down, "The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, class, sex, place of birth or any of them." Article 16 further adds, "There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointement to any office under the State. (2) No citizen shall,only on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State." Article 19 gives a fundamental right to all to establish their associations and unions. Are not minorities included in "All?" Do they not form associations to establish educational institutions? Where is the obstacle? Where is the hindrance? Where is the constraint?

In the absence of any constraint or limitation, because there is this provision of Article 30, the courts have held that the so-called minorities have an overriding right to ignore, abuse or subvert any law of the State. The laws of the State can either be good or bad, but how can they be good for the majority and bad for the minority or vice versa. We cannot blame the courts. They have to justify the presence of this Article. This Article gives an unfettered right to the minorities to establish their educational institutions. Therefore on one side we get a spectcle of 90 per cent of teachers' training colleges being run by Christian associations in one district of Tamil Nadu and on the other,the Ramkrishna Mission of Calcutta in order to save itself from the rigours of the West Bengal government rules had to submit an affidavit, that they are not a Hindu organisation. It is ironical that Hindus, in this land of Hindusthan are made to suffer severe disadvantages because they are in a majority. Nowhere in the world will one witness such absurdity. It is to be noted that because Hindu people are in a majority in this country that the minorities are having special rights. Do minorities in Pakistan or Bangladesh have any such rights?

One more point.

On what basis should an institution can and should be called a minority institution? Is it proper that because it is owned by a so-called religious minority, the institution becomes a minority institution eligible to reap all the advantages of its minority character? Take the case of Bislop College of Nagpur where I served as a teacher for 17 years. It is managed by the Church of Scotland. But it does not cater only to the needs of students of its denomination. More than 90 per cent of its students are non-Christians. The subjects taught there are all secular subjects, like any other college.

Why should it get the status of a minority institution on religious grounds? Why should it not be subject to all the rules and regulations of the Government in relation to reservation in admissions and appointments? I have nothing against Bislop College, which treated me with great respect and honour. The point is about its being above the law of the land. The same will hold good in the case of a Muslim school or an institution belonging to a linguistic minority. Therefore, the recent demand of the counsel for minorities to give them unfeterred rights to administer their technological institutions is without any reason and hence deserves to be rejected.

Nobody will dare accuse Dr Ambedkar or Dr Radhakrishan as having RSS leanings. So in the absence of a majority religion, there cannot be a minority religion on which any fundamental right could be conferred.

In short, Article 30 in our Constitution is unnecessary, because ample guarantees are given to all including minorities in different Articles of our Constitution. It should be deleted because it is discriminatory against the majority community. If at all it is felt that it is essencial to assure and please the minorities, the advantage should be restricted to only those institutions that minister to the needs of the students of their denomination, whether religious or linguistic. They should not be allowed to exploit the space that is meant for all. Now that the Supreme Court is seized of the matter, it should determine the qualifications for acquiring a minority institution status. Simply because an institution is owned and managed by a so-called minority group should not be the criteria.

Kanchi cases: Swamy seeks Kalam’s intervention

Thursday, 29 September , 2005, 18:03

New Delhi: Terming the registration of "bogus and fabricated" cases against the Sankaracharyas of Kanchi Mutt as a "gross violation" of the fundamental right of religion, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy on Thursday met President A P J Abdul Kalam and asked him to intervene so that these were withdrawn.

He submitted a memorandum to the President in which he said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa appeared to have allowed the police to file the cases "on direction from forces which have the capacity to embarrass, threaten or coerce her to do what she otherwise would not have done left to herself."

Criticising the "nonchalance" of the Congress to the "apparent religious persecution," he said it would make Hindus wonder whether their religion was under "an invisible siege."

Swamy asked Kalam to issue directions to the government to have the cases against the Sankaracharyas withdrawn before coming Diwali or "I, as a devout and hurt Hindu and a proud Indian, shall have no alternative left but to internationalise the issue."

The President had assured Swamy that he would study his complaint, a release from the Janata Party leader’s office said.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

UPA has made India a client state of US: BJP

Press Trust of India

New Delhi, September 25: BJP leader and former Foreign Minister Yashwant Singh on Sunday criticised Manmohan Singh government for ‘abandoning’ Iran when it voted with the US-EU on a resolution on Tehran’s nuclear programme saying the UPA had succumbed to the US pressure.

“The veil is off. India is now firmly in the US camp. A government which came to power wooing to follow an independent foreign policy has finally surrendered its independence to US. The UPA government has made India a client state of the US,” Sinha said.

Making a statement in his personal capacity and not as a BJP leader, he said India had abandoned Iran to save its own questionable nuclear deal with the USA.

“It is a pity that the government of India decided to vote for the EU resolution against Iran in the IAEA. India’s consistent position has been that issues in Iran’s nuclear programme should be resolved through discussions and consensus and not through confrontation. By voting for a resolution to refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council, this avenue has been closed,” he said.

Sinha said New Delhi did not even choose to abstain from the voting on the EU resolution like Russia and China did.

“Clearly, the UPA government has buckled under the intense pressure of United States of America,” he added.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A critique of National Curriculum Framework--2005

A devise to alienate young India
By Prof. Bal Apte, MP

The present exercise of framing National Curriculum Framework (NCF) has negated the logical process for doing this. The logical process goes through four stages: i) The NCF is formulated and put in place; ii) In consonance syllabi are framed; iii) Books are commissioned and written, consistent with syllabi framed according to NCF; iv) The curriculum becomes operative. Here, it is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. This shows that the exercise is tainted with malafides, which are writ large on it:

1.

It began with the examination of the NCFSE (NCF for school education)--2000 by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, headed by the present Minister for HRD. He had his own experts to condemn it, but could not produce a report.

2.

Some friendly litigants went to the Supreme Court challenging the NCFSE-2000 on two counts
1) The Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) was not constituted and consulted;
2) The rubric of secularism was violated. The Supreme Court rejected both the challenges with a categorical judgment (Aruna Roy u/s Union (2002 7Scc 368).

Even before they started work, ‘new’ books on History and Social Science were introduced for the academic year 2005-06; the same books that ruled between 1966 and 1992, were now bandied as under NCFSE-2000! These books are full of errors, prejudices and insults to every community; but, as they say, ‘that’s another story’. The points framed and rejected were:

1) The respondents, that is the Government have not sought the approval of the CABE to the National Curriculum Framework for school education and without obtaining the approval of CABE, NCFSE cannot be implemented.

2) NCFSE, i.e., the national curriculum and the syllabi framed thereunder are unconstitutional as the same are violative of the rubric of secularism, which is part of the basic structure of our Constitution.

‘Secularist’ crowd was disappointed. Probably they want the Supreme Court orders to justify their secularism, when it is convenient, but they want to ignore the Supreme Court orders when it is not convenient to their kind of secularism.

On change of government, the Ministry of Human Resource Development issued the fateful order of June 12, 2004. By this order a panel of historians was appointed to recommend ‘removing distorted and communally biased portions’ of history text books because of their ‘communalisation and inadequacies.’ The order began with the conclusion regarding communalisation and appointed certain persons as ‘experts’ with a direction to them as to what they should do. It is apparent that the order is vitiated because of its prejudice, prejudgment and ideological myopia.

This was accompanied by commissioning of Syllabus Committees.

And even before they started work ‘new’ books on History and Social Science were introduced for the academic year 2005-06; the same books that ruled between 1966 and 1992, were now bandied as under NCFSE-2000! These books are full of errors, prejudices and insults to every community; but, as they say, ‘that’s another story’.

So, now, NCERT and CABE are expected to put in a command performance.

Now, the draft NCF gives expression to several of the common concerns expressed by everybody and every commission or committee, at least, for the last 40 years. This is in the nature of lip service, because they will not be addressed for the lack of political will both for resources and implementation:

1. Removal of burden and stress on children.
2. Common school system to ensure that children of different background study together.
3. Mother tongue is the best medium of instruction.
4. Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE).
5. Flexible school timings.
6. Books and reference materials availability.
7. Examination reforms; typology of questions; replace memorising.
8. Transparency and internal assessment.
9. Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE).
10. Work-centred education and vocationalisation.

Of these, the first three will never be achieved because of a moribund approach to the minority rights under Article 30 of the Constitution. It is high time we appreciated this.

There are certain wider implications which I want to point out and those implications are, why is this protection to the minorities? Ultimately, if the society is to be a society as a whole, then this protection to the minorities should lead to the integration of all the sections of the society and, then, I have to point out two things. One is, the international document which talks about minority rights, particularly the last declaration, namely, the Declaration of the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, 1992. Incidentally, our country does not have any national or ethnic minorities. We are one people, but we have religious and linguistic minorities. But, in a preamble to this Declaration, what the United Nations says is, “Emphasising that the constant promotion and realisation of the rights of persons belonging to national, ethnic, linguistics, religious minorities as an integral part of the development of society as a whole.” So, protection of minorities is an integral part of the development of the society as a whole. If we continue to segregate everything, are we going to achieve that? That is one question on the basis of this.

It is very essential that at the school level right from primary stage, deliberate, planned and sustained efforts are made to inculcate basic human values among the students. Values are best initiated by a mother to her small child under her tender care in the secure atmosphere of home.


We have two reports. One is by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, issued in September, 2001, where it suggests that the education system should not just be fair to minorities. They should promote a spirit of equality and tolerance among ethnic and cultural groups. Then, there is a report on minority rights in education in Estonia, Latvia, Romania and Macedonia. It is concluded that learning apart does not encourage living together and that, there is a danger of a strictly mono-lingual, mono-religious, mono-cultural or even mono-racial approach leading to ghettoisation of minorities.

Looking from the national perspective, while talking only about minority rights, we must consider that ultimately we don´t want the minorities to be ghettoized, but it should be a matter of equality and tolerance among all the communities. Thus a perverted sense of secularism has thwarted basic education principles being operational.

Looking from the national perspective, I believe, while talking only about minority rights, we must consider that ultimately we don’t want the minorities to be ghettoized, but it should be a matter of equality and tolerance among all the communities. Thus a perverted sense of secularism has thwarted basic education principles being operational.

In so far as the ECCE is concerned, when education was made a Fundamental Right for children in the age-group of 6 to 14, by the Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, ECCE was sought to be achieved by redrafting Article 45 and adding clause(K) to Article 51A providing for Fundamental Duties. But nothing more has happened in this area, thereafter.

Be that as it may, the real question is about core concerns:

A. Why education? The signature of NCERT says "Education achieves life´s fulfillment. How? Education should mould a proud citizen, a patriotic citizen, a socially committed citizen, a citizen respecting and following the core values of human life. For this education has to be value-based."

This objective has no place in the proposed NCF. While doing this, the NCF has contravened the mandate of both:

i) The National Policy of Education 1986 (NEP) which still holds the field, and

ii) The judgment of the Supreme Court approving the NCFSE.

This was followed by the Parliamentary Committee headed by Shri S.B. Chavan which submitted its 81st Report on Value-based Education to Rajya Sabha on February 26, 1999. An extract of the report is self explanatory. (It is quoted by the Supreme Court with approval):

8. Truth (satya), righteous conduct (dharma), peace (shanti), Love (prema) and non-violence (ahimsa) are the core universal values which can be identified as the foundation stone on which the value-based education programme can be built up. These five are indeed universal values and respectively represent the five domains of human personality, intellectual, physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. They also are correspondingly co-related with the five major objectives of education, namely, knowledge, skill, balance, vision and identity.

9. Primary school stage is the period in child’s life when seed of value-education can be implanted in his/her impressionable mind in a very subtle way. If this seed is nurtured by the capable hands of dedicated teachers in school, if they insert values at appropriate intervals during a child’s life, it can be easily said that half the battle in building up national character has been won.

10. It is very essential that at the school level, right from primary stage, deliberate planned and sustained efforts are made to inculcate basic human values among the students. Values are best initiated by a mother to her child under her tender care in the secure atmosphere of home. However, nowadays, children are enrolled in school as early as at the age of four. At this impressionable stage, values like respect for parents, elders and teachers, truth, punctuality, cleanliness and courtesy can be easily inculcated in children. They can also be sensitised regarding gender equality.

11. Besides the personal values, there are certain social values which ought to be imbibed by the young mind. These are the values about the whole community´s concern for the aged and the handicapped, for the deprived sections of the society etc. Sincere belief in the dignity of labour is generally found to be lacking in our young generation. Values of self-dependence and insistence on doing manual labour are thus required to be impressed upon children.

12. In view of the diverse character of our country, it is essential that certain national values are also imbibed by our young students. They should be acquainted with the history of India’s freedom struggle, cultural heritage, constitutional obligations and the features comprising our national identity. The Committee feels that some of these national values can be imparted indirectly at the primary stage while at the middle and secondary level, these can be included in the curriculum.

13. Another aspect that must be given some thought is religion, which is the most misused and misunderstood concept. The process of making the students acquainted with the basics of all religions, the values inherent therein and also a comparative at the middle stage in schools and continue up to the university level. Students have to be made aware that the basic concept behind every religion is common, only the practices differ. Even if there are differences of opinion in certain areas, people have to learn to co-exist and carry no hatred against any religion.

14. One should never forget that all the values are derived from ultimate reality—supreme power or self-consciousness-to which man orients himself.”

In this context it is relevant to refer to the UNESCO´s Department for Intercultural Dialogue and Plurarism, for a culture of peace, which pleads for “spiritual convergence” and proposes to promote dialogue among the different religious and spiritual traditions in the world where intra and inter-religious conflicts have become the order of the day. (January 2000)

All this now bears the stamp of authority of the Supreme

Court in its decision in the case of Aruna Roy v/s Union referred to earlier.

B. The Draft NCF also ignores Fundamental Duties which, according to the report of the committee headed by J.S. Verma CJI (Retd.), must form an integral part of education. Even the NEP-1986 emphasised this.

C. Sanskrit is a language included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. It is dubbed as a classical language and is bracketed with Arabic and Persian. This is wholly illogical and again contrary to the Supreme Court decision in the case of Santosh Kumar (1994) 6SCC579. The draft NCF effectively discourages the study of Sanskrit, which really is the, ‘Treasure Within.’

D. Yoga is relegated to a kind of physical exercise, when the world is recognising it as a panacea for total mental, physical, intellectual, spiritual Health. This again is contrary to NEP-1986.

It is essential that certain national values are also imbibed by our young students. They should be acquainted with the history of India’s freedom struggle, cultural heritage, constitutional obligations and the features comprising our national identity.

E. The secularism of the draft NCF is allergic to spiritualism. It ought to be noted that the need for spiritualism for peace and harmony is being recognised by the world. Apart from the UNESCO document referred to above another UNESCO report titled Treasure Within also talks about spiritualism and spiritual quotient (apart from Intelligence quotient and Emotional quotient) ‘SQ with IQ & EQ’. The report came in 1996. Preparatory to meeting the challenge of globalisation and global disparities, in so far as education was concerned, UNESCO established in 1993, the International Commission on Education for 21st century, headed by Shri Jacques Delors with 14 other members, including Dr. Karan Singh. This report talks of spiritualism.

The secularism of the draft NCF is allergic to spiritualism. It ought to be noted that the need for spiritualism for peace and harmony is being recognised by the world. Apart from the UNESCO document referred to above another UNESCO report titled Treasure Within also talks about spiritualism and Spiritual Quotient (apart from Intelligence Quotient and Emotional Quotient) ‘SQ with IQ & EQ’.

F. “Minimum Levels of Learning” were aimed at by the NCFSE-2000 which again was the objective of NEP-1986. The Draft here drops the objective altogether on the spacious ground that is impracticable.

G. The NEP-1986 insists that the new generations can not be permitted to break away from their roots of ancient Indian History and Culture. The draft NCF talks only of the present and the future. They want a generation of alienated youngsters.

H. This a-national approach of the framers of NCF, whose ideology believes in regimentation, makes any reference to decentralisation incongruous. Therefore when the draft talks about decentralisation of book writing, one tends not to take it seriously. One last point: If you want to tamper, you may but at least do not victimise somebody because you do not like him.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Council committee defies city on Hindu holiday vote

New York City - Manhattan news

BY BRYAN VIRASAMI
STAFF WRITER

September 21, 2005

Despite opposition from the Bloomberg administration, a City Council committee Tuesday voted unanimously to approve legislation adding Diwali to the list of holidays that alternate-side-of-the-street parking rules would be suspended.

The full council will vote later this month on whether to suspend the parking rules for street cleaning for the popular Hindu holiday.

Bernard Sullivan, chief of cleaning at the Sanitation Department, said in prepared remarks to the City Council Transportation Committee that there are already 39 days when they can't sweep the curbs.

Adding to it would "greatly impact community cleanliness," he said. Sullivan also said the department has opposed similar proposals for other holidays in the past.

Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), chairman of the committee, didn't buy the argument.

"It's a question of fairness. There's a very substantial portion of New Yorkers who hold this holiday in high reverence," Liu said.

Some Hindus and community leaders say that Diwali, one of India's major religious holidays, which is observed by Hindus around the world, deserves the honor.

Tara Singh, a community activist and spokesman for the Bhuvaneshwar Mandir of Queens in Ozone Park, said the administration's opposition to the holiday is akin to a slap on the face.

"Most people go to church on that day and they need to park and parking is a problem in the city," Singh said. "It's a question of equal protection under the Constitutition. Some groups get it, and why can't we get it?"

Thousands of Hindus in the city, most of whom emigrated from India, Guyana or Trinidad, observe the holiday, which goes back thousands of years.

The holiday, also called the Festival of Lights, originates from a historical religious story symbolic of the triumph of good over evil, Singh said.

In observance, families get together and share food and light up pathways, windows and other sections of their homes.

Has the peace process forgotten the Pandits?

September 21, 2005

Invisible transfers, long distance calls
hollow laughter in marble halls
steps have been taken, a silent uproar
has unleashed the dogs of war
you can't stop what has begun
signed, sealed, they deliver oblivion
we all have a dark side, to say the least
and dealing in death is the nature of the beast
one world, it's a battleground
one world, and we will smash it down
one world...one world

-- Pink Floyd, Momentary Lapse of Reason

On August 15, 1947, what was known as the Indian subcontinent was forever divided on religious lines into India, East and West Pakistan.

Some Muslims, perhaps worried about living in a Hindu majority nation, and that too one which they had ruled for hundreds of years before the British arrived, wanted -- and got -- their own homeland.

Tens of thousands died in the religious carnage that followed Partition. Thousands more have died since.

The Empire, it seems, had the final laugh.

My grandfather, Dhaka's first Indian civil surgeon, and his family fled that city for Assam and then eventually Calcutta months before it became the capital of East Pakistan.

Frankly, I didn't worry, or even think about Partition during my formative years, being too engrossed traveling with my father, who was a consultant to the UN.

It was only during my high school days in Calcutta that I recall noticing that some Bengalis spoke in a singsong dialect which seemed strange to me, and being told that it came from Bangladesh.

I was also flummoxed when I was once asked whether I was a ghoti (a steel utensil for usually meant for drinking water) or a bati (a smaller steel bowl used for mealtime accompaniments like the daily dal or sabzi). At least, that's what I thought they meant. But actually they meant whether I was from this side of the border or that.

But my real brush with the anguish and anger caused by Partition came when I moved to Delhi, where almost every Punjabi over 60 I met had horror stories to tell. Almost all of them shared a visceral hatred for Pakistan. In some cases, this hatred was passed on to their sons and daughters, who were not directly affected by the division of India. More than half a century later, memories of the inhuman carnage of 1947 remain embedded in the national psyche of both India and Pakistan.

It was in Delhi that I also met a young Kashmiri Pandit, who lived in a large, squalid hall in Delhi's upmarket South Extension. It was optimistically described as a 'transit camp' for the Pandits displaced from their homeland by marauding militants in the early 90s.

Almost every Kashmiri Hindu forced to leave the valley talks about their roots and culture, and how hard they are trying to retain them despite their eviction and subsequent isolation in India, by Indians.

This young man recounted a sad but telling story about his cousin, then five. It seems that the little one, in his interactions with other children in the scorching Delhi summer, would recount how 'in Kashmir, they had played in the snow.' The child had been born in that Delhi camp, and had never been to Kashmir.

This is the Kashmir over which we have fought three wars (four, if you count Kargil, and you should) with Pakistan since partition.

Today, as part of the peace process, we are talking with the so-called Hurriyat Conference, whose leaders are among those who forced these Hindus out of their homes. Many of them are blatantly anti-national. Some of them are accused of killing Indian soldiers.

Today, we are talking with Kashmiris across the border, while totally ignoring Indian Kashmiris who were forced to leave their homes at gunpoint.

I can understand -- though not condone -- the reasons behind the dramatically dwindling Hindu populations in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

But the thought that this could happen in a state of 'secular' India makes me want to throw up in the face of the government(s) which condoned -- some say even encouraged -- this.

Enough has been said about the plight of the Pandits. It is time we did something about it.

One thing we can do is tell Pakistan -- so self-righteously adamant about 'Kashmiris' having a say in the peace process -- that we will discuss this issue only after all those who were forced to leave due to Pakistan-sponsored militancy are readmitted to their homes and allowed to participate in the local government.

Until then, anyone who declares himself or herself as representing the Kashmiri masses should be viewed with suspicion. And that includes elected officials. Because any election conducted after the ethnic cleansing that took place in the state is per se faulty and skewed.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Redefining Religious Freedom in the USA

By Paul Utukuru

Although religious freedom is guaranteed in the United States, we write “ In God we trust” on our dollar bills and we call ourselves One Nation under God. This is a powerful notion that the founding fathers had come up with, given the religious composition of the people of the New world then and introduced the concept of the separation of Church and State. But today the concept of one Nation under God can also be the most important source of conflicts not only with other non-Western nations but also within ourselves in the coming years unless it is carefully redefined and reinterpreted. That is because we are no longer a Nation of the descendents of English Pilgrims nor merely a Nation of Jews and Christians. There are millions and millions of people now in the United States that belong to other religions and there are millions and millions for whom religion is no more than a mere birthmark. Above all, there are numerous African Americans and some white Americans too that are converting to Islam. For this reason, the word God means different things to different people and in order to retain its sacredness, we must be prepared to let people make their own decisions as to what God is and how they should worship or not worship at all. Central to the success of Democracy anywhere in modern times is religious freedom besides freedom of speech and human rights. Today, we are fortunate to live in a land where these things are guaranteed and religion based persecutions are a thing of the past and our prowess for scientific and cultural achievements is unparalleled anywhere and at anytime in the history of the world.



Therefore, unity within our religious diversity with total separation of not just Church and State but Religion and State should be the hallmark of religious freedom in this wonderful land with the Government being of the people, by the people and for the people to enable Modern America to strengthen its ideals and enable it to play its role as the World Leader more and more effectively in the years to come.

There are many forces at work that threaten the total separation of Religion and State in this country. Political support for evangelism is one of them. More recently, it is the political support for the teaching of intelligence design in public schools. The Intelligent Design Movement is growing stronger and stronger in the USA. Its advocates are pushing more and more vigorously for Intelligent Design to be taught in public school science classes as an alternative to the Darwin’s Theory of evolution. Intelligent Design advocates argue that random genetic drift and natural selection alone cannot account for the "irreducible complexity" observed in biological structures of even rudimentary life forms such as the flagellum of sperm cells and bacteria. A macroscopic example of irreducible complexity, they point out is the human eye, to which Charles Darwin himself called attention. They ask how such a complex mechanism with so many independent parts could have arisen by gradual incremental changes, when the mechanism would not function without all of the parts working together. Supported by robust and sophisticated statistical analyses, they argue that some outside intelligent agency would be needed to specify the complexity involved.

Many Christian groups are interpreting this development in science as proof that the universe has been designed by God as the Bible says. I see this as irrelevant to the scientific contributions of intelligence design theorists. That is because we are immediately confronted with the question as to who and where this God is. Is he, she or it Allah, Yahweh, God the Father or someone else? Is he, she or it outside the created universe or in each and every process of creation? In either case, why is God hiding from us? Once you begin bringing religion into the science curriculum, numerous other issues arise even within the context of the Abrahamic religions. There is no consistency within the worldviews of even these religions. These include such things as the timescales involved and the purpose of evolution not to speak of the controversies surrounding Jesus and Muhammad. Even within Christianity, Catholics have their version and the Protestants theirs with hundreds of secondary variations. The problem gets even more complicated if you bring eastern religions into the picture with their own grossly varying worldviews. While there is harmony and beauty in nature, there is also chaos and uncertainty. Even from a Biblical perspective, while God intended the world to be a perfect world, man’s fall by eating out the tree of knowledge led to his own acquired intelligence. That in turn has contributed to his own involvement in his own evolution and his manipulation of the environment around him. Hinduism has its law of Karma and the theory of Reincarnation to account for evolution with all its positive and negative aspects as we humans see them.

My conclusion is that the scientific content of intelligence design theory should stay within the scientific community till such time that it reaches consensus among scientists themselves if it ever does. In the meanwhile, to force it into public school scientific curricula through political support is against the principle of separation of State and Religion in this land and can very well lead to unnecessary unexpected unrest and revolt in the years to come.

It is my hope that the influential among the citizens of Indian origin in this country will get this message across to the educational authorities involved in this matter in various states of the country.

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Reservations and social justice

The Moving Finger Writes
M. V. Kamath

Members of Parliament belonging to the Democratic Progressive Alliance in Tamil Nadu are up in arms against the recent Supreme Court's ruling abolishing government quotas and reservation in unaided, professional educational institutions. In a show of great concern, the MPs belonging to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Congress, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Pattali Makkal Katchi, the CPI, the CPM and the Indian Union Muslim League presented a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding a central legislation to provide reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other Most Backward Castes in unaided higher educational institutions.

Their concern is very touching. Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister Jayalalithaa went a step further and demanded that the powers of the State government should be prescribed in the Union legislation to ensure that college managements follow government regulations on determination of merit and reservation. According to a former chief minister of Karnataka, M.Veerappa Moily, who should know, the Indian population of over 1.2 billion people consists of six main ethnic groups, 52 major tribes, six major religions, 6,400 castes and sub-castes, 18 major and 1,600 minor languages and dialects. In India, it would seem, everybody belongs to a minority. Poverty, incidentally, is not the exclusive characteristic of Scheduled Castes and Tribes or of Backward Classes and if social justice has to be equitably meted out, the needs of the poor among the so-called Upper Castes will necessarily have to be met.

The poor among all castes and classes have a problem. They can't afford to send their children to school. It is claimed that there are 40 per cent dropouts at the primary level and 55 per cent dropout at the upper primary level. According to Shri Moily, upward of 66 per cent of enrolled students do not attend primary schools and less than 7 per cent from the poorer sections even pass the 10th standard. And out of the 7 per cent, not even 1.5 per cent go in for higher education. Surely one cannot attribute these facts to discrimination against SCs, STs and OBCs? Even as matters stand, the problem is not non-availability of opportunities but of abject poverty which compels the poor from among all castes and classes to put their children to work right from the age of nine. That is the tragedy of it all.

Take the case of just one State, Andhra Pradesh. The SCs and STs jointly form 22 per cent of the total population of the State and, as of now, they are guaranteed 21 per cent of quotas in professional educational institutions. But, according to the 2001 census, the percentage of SC/ST engineers is 0.029 and that of doctors a mere 0.006 of the entire population. Even within their own communities, according to a report in Deccan Chronicle with a population of 1.73 crore, the percentage of people who make it to professional colleges in minuscule. What is true of Andhra Pradesh is more or less true of other states as well.

Instead of trying to fight the Supreme Court the government can raise its expenditure on education as a first step towards meeting the needs of ST/SC/OBCs. Besides, nothing, prevents State governments from setting up education corporations to run professional colleges on the same lines as private bodies. The truly dedicated do not complain: They act.

According to the Chronicle (August 20), of the 29, 03, 778 SC students attending educational institutions in Andhra Pradesh, 91 per cent are enrolled in schools, just 5 per cent are pursuing education after SSC and alarmingly 0.6 per cent are engaged in vocational courses. Two points need to be made in this connection. One is that the immediate problem is not one of providing reserved seats to SC/ST/OBC students in institutions of higher studies in medicine and engineeringlike some other states Andhra Pradesh spends nearly Rs 250 crore exclusively for scholarships to SC/ST students in these fieldsbut of providing SC/ST families the bare wherewithal to live and have a roof over their heads. Deprivation levels among the relatively vulnerable social and occupational groups are extremely high. The latest available estimates from the National Sample Survey put the incidence of illiteracy for male and female workers from agricultural labour households at 56 and 81 per cent, respectively, and almost 40 per cent of children from such households in the 6 to 14 years of age segment are reported to be out of school.

The task of the Government, then, is to meet this challenge of unemployment and under-employment by making provisions for money-related jobs and occupation-related study courses. One does not even have to be literate, to be a good carpenter, electrician or engine repairer. If only State governments would provide excellent vocational schools teaching crafts to students in the five hundred odd districts within their jurisdiction, they would have rendered extraordinary service to the poor and the needy. To have status in society one does not need to be a doctor or an engineereven if one forgets the fact that there is large-scale unemployment among trained engineersand an honest electrician or radio-repairer can surely command respect among his comperes.

The truth is that we have our priorities wrong. In the caste-conscious society that we are in, people seek social status more than economic independence. It is not that higher educational institutions are limited in number. They have been growing at a fantastic rate. Colleges for general education increased from 4,862 in 1990-91 to 8,737 in 2001-02; colleges for professional education during the same period rose from 886 to 2,409 and the number of universities from 184 to 272. In Tamil Nadu alone there are 231 private engineering colleges, six medical colleges and at least 140 private colleges offering paramedical courses. And they are mostly run by non-Brahmins. Surely they owe it to their fellow caste men to get free seats without being ordered by Governments?

The Kothari Commission had suggested way back in 1968 that public expenditure on education should be about 6 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) but the highest expenditure so far has been 4.18 in 2001-02. Instead of trying to fight the Supreme Court, the government can raise its expenditure on education as a first step towards meeting the needs of ST/SC/OBCs. Besides, nothing prevents State governments from setting up education corporations to run professional colleges on the same lines as private bodies. The truly dedicated do not complain, they act. What we are presently witnessing is politicisation of a Supreme Court verdict to garner the SC/ST/OBC votes. The social pretensions of our political parties need to be exposed. Giving State governments control over private educational organisations is to encourage large-scale corruption in official circles. There has been enough of it in the past. What the Supreme Court judgment has done is to free private institutions from ministerial and official claws. The nation should be grateful to it.

Hindus wake up

India, after 58 years of Partition, once again stands at the crossroads. The Muslim problem, for which India was divided in 1947, is once again taking dangerous shape. Muslims, in 1946, had en masse voted for Pakistan. Those left in India on their free will were not Indianised. The Congress party used them as its vote-bank to pollute the process of genuine democracy in India. The Muslims in India are openly supported by Pakistan and Bangladesh. A majority of them follow the rules of millat, kufr, Dar-ul-Harb and Dar-ul-Islam. Islamic madrasas, mushrooming in the country, indoctrinate the impressionable young minds to become terrorists and finally participate in Islamic jihad. India and its Hindu population has tolerated Islamic terrorism for centuries. No solution to the Islamic problem has been discovered. It is now a national tragedy that requires every Hindu in India to unite. Indian nationalism is crying for this unity. The present situation in India is a consequence of the wrong national policies followed by Nehru and other Congress governments. In 1951, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee resigned as Industry Minister from the Nehru Government and gave birth to a Hindu national party by the name of Jana Sangh. He was an honest and competent nationalist of India. He saw the need for Hinduism to support Indian nationalism. He devoted his whole life to the cause of India and was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1952. He desired to bring every Hindu political, social and cultural Hindu organisation under one strong national Hindu party. India must necessarily be a Hindu Rashtra. That does not mean that all other minorities are unequal citizens of India. Hindutva is the real and perfect definition of secularism. It means all Indian citizens regardless of their faiths are equal before the eyes of Indian law. There must be only one civil and criminal code with no particular religion being treated as specialas is being done these days by treating the Muslims. This is most unsecular and undemocratic.

R.V. Bhasin, 76, Bajaj Bhavan, Nariman Point, Mumbai

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RSS a unique Organisation

Justice Dr. M. Rama Jois

I have been extremely fortunate in coming into contact with this great organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh 60 years ago, in 1944, when I joined high school at Shimoga and began to attend the Sangh Shakha named after Chatrapati Shivaji. Thereafter on account of participation in all activities of the Sangh, I acquired knowledge of the life and work of Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the founder of RSS and personal acquaintance of Param Poojaniya Guruji, the then Sarsanghachalak and the noble ideology of the RSS, and many other prominent leaders of RSS. I have been immensely benefited by the moulding of my character and inculcation of patriotism and discipline by the RSS. I say with firm conviction and sincerity that Dr. Hedgewar was a genius and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is a unique organisation both of which have no parallel. Elaborating this point in the first instance I shall give a brief account of the life and work of Dr Hedgewar and thereafter explain the uniqueness of the organisation.

Founding of RSS

Dr Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS was born on Ugadi day [New Year's Day] in 1889 at Nagpur. He was a born patriot. Even when he was studying in primary school, he refused to eat sweets distributed on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Victoria on June 22, 1897. When he was studying in Neel City High School, Nagpur, he was rusticated for singing "Vande Mataram" in violation of the circular issued by the then British government. As a result he had to persue his high school studies at Yeotmal. He participated in the freedom struggle under the leadership of the Indian National Congress and participated in the Non-cooperation Movement of 1921 and was jailed. He was released on July 12, 1922. After making an in-depth study of our history, he came to the conclusion that lack of patriotism and disunity among the Hindus was the reason for our defeat at the hands of foreign invaders and enslavement under foreign rule. He, therefore, felt that unless a sense of patriotism, selflessness, sterling character, national consciousness and sense of unity, selfless service, self-realisation and discipline were inculcated in a substantial number of individuals, it would be impossible to uplift the nation and secure political freedom.

After making an in-depth study of our history, he came to the conclusion that lack of patriotism and disunity among the Hindus was the reason for our defeat at the hands of foreign invaders and India's enslavement under foreign rule.

He, therefore, decided to start a unique organisation to solve the problems. He took a vow to remain a bachelor and devote his entire life and energy to the aforesaid noble cause. For this purpose, he founded the "Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh" on Vijayadashami day September 27, 1925. He evolved a unique technic which was unprecedented, simple and inexpensive. He selected a group of young boys who would assemble in an open field every day for one hour. During that time, in addition to playing national games, he began to inculcate in them a sense of patriotism, unity, discipline, love for the country and selflessness, by singing of patriotic songs and narration of stories of patriots. He appealed to the youth to spare one hour a day for the Nation by attending the Shakha (the meeting). He visualised that the one hour programme in the Shakha would ultimately transform the youth to devote greater time and energy in the service of the nation. He, therefore, undertook the Himalayan task of organising the Hindus, who despite having a common cultural bond and fundamental unity had come to be divided into various castes, religions, regions and language groups.

Bharat Mata as common deity

Dr Hedgewar felt that it was necessary to have a common deity to be worshipped by all and a common ideal which all should strive to achieve and a common prayer (mantra) for all. He declared that irrespective of castes, religions and languages, etc, we are all children of Bharatmata who shall be the common deity to be worshipped by all of us and the common ideal of all shall be to strive for all-round progress and development of the nation and for taking the nation to the pinnacle of glory. These two ideals were incorporated in the common prayer to be sung by all the members at the Shakha every day. The first line of the prarthana says "Namaste Sada Vatsale Matrubhume"Oh my beloved motherland salutation to theeand the last line of the prayer says "Oh God, please give us strength and bless us to enable us to take our nation to the pinnacle of glory" (param vaibhavamnetu metat swarasthram) and concludes with the all unifying slogan "Bharat Mata ki jai" (Victory to Bharat Mata). Having decided about the common deity to be worshipped, common ideals to be achieved, a common prayer to be made and the common slogan, Dr. Hedgewar started contemplating on who should be placed in the position of Guru.

Bhagwadwaj as Guru

It is well known that in our culture the highest place is given to the Guru and he is regarded as equal to God. It is the Guru who with the instrument of his intellect and wisdom opens the eyes of his disciples and enables them to proceed from darkness to light. Therefore, every year the people worship their Guru on Guru Poornima day. Dr Hedgewar wanted to choose a Guru befitting the divine task of national reconstruction.

What Dr Hedgewar did is comparable only to what Guru Govind Singhji did in respect of Sikhism, who put an end to a human person being a Guru and substituted the Guru Granth Sahib in place of a living Guru.

After founding the RSS, he announced that the members have to perform guru pooja on the specified day and offer gurudakshina which alone shall be the financial resource of the Sangha. The Swayamsevaks began to think as to who could be installed in the position of Guru other than Dr. Hedgewar himself. But on Guru Poornima day there was a surprise. Dr Hedgewar declared that Bhagwadwaj under whose auspicious presence Shakhas were being held every day shall be the Guru. He stated that Bhagwadwaj represents our glorious history and cultural heritage. It reminds us of Sri Rama, Sri Krishna and Gitopadesha and also reminds us of great empires like the Maurya, Gupta, Vijayanagara, etc. It also represents the gurus of all religions and religious sects born in the country. It reminds us of Mahavira, Buddha, Shankara, Basava, Tiruvaluvur, Ramanuja, Madhwa-charya, Guru Nanak, Guru Ramdas and Vidyaranya under whose guidance the great Vijayanagara empire was established. It also represents those who fought valiantly to protect the freedom and honour of motherland such as Maharana Pratap, Chatrapati Shivaji, Guru Govind Singh and Rani of Jhansi. Further it also represents our cultural heritage, all good values of life of great heroes and saints. More than all the saffron colour of Bhagwadwaj has been the symbol of sacrifice.

He said he was not in favour of placing any human being in the place of Guru, as it is quite possible that on account of some pitfall or shortcomings in him, which is natural in human beings the followers might get disappointed or frustrated at some point of time. He also indicated that he was placing Bhagwadwaj, which represents the noble ideals of the RSS in the place of Guru as he desired that there should be "tatvanishta" (loyalty to ideals) and not "vyaktinishta" (loyalty to any individual).

What Dr Hedgewar did is comparable only to what Guru Govind Singhji did in respect of Sikhism, who put an end to a human person being a Guru and substituted the Guru Granth Sahib in place of a living Guru. Thus Guru Govind Singh transformed an inanimate object into a powerful Guru who is guiding the entire Sikh community. Similarly, Dr Hedgewar transformed Bhagwadwaj an inanimate object into guru. He said it is only after a Bhagwadwaj is presented to a shakha after it is well established that it becomes a recognised shakha and that only after hoisting the Bhagwadwaj in a Shakha, activities of national learning commence and all functions of RSS commence.

Metamorphosis through shakha

In order to transform an ordinary individual into an extraordinary patriot ready to sacrifice everything in the service of the motherland and in order to completely erase selfishness, ego and divisive factors such as high and low castes, rich and poor, he invented a simple inexpensive technique called Shakha, a method of get-together for one hour at a specified place and time every day. His appeal was simple in that he asked the youth to spare one hour out of 24 hours for the Nation. Accordingly, he attracted a handful of youths for attending Shakha which was comparable to ancient Gurukulas. Shakha programmes were such as would bring about an all-round development of an individuals i.e. physical, mental, moral and intellectual. Physical fitness through physical activities solely comprising of national games and physical exercises, character building, inculcating patriotism through stories of heroes, saints social reformers, etc, as also through patriotic songs and intellectual development through periodic Bhaudhiks. The whole process was called Samskara. Important aspect of programmes of Shakha has been to treat Bharatmata as the common deity, Bhagwadwaj as the common Guru and Sangha prarthana as the common mantra for all the swayamsevaks. Through this methodology Doctorji sought to demolish all fissiparous tendencies afflicting the nation. The prarthana contains an oath by every swayamsevak that he will lay down his life in the service of the nation. There is also a prayer to God to confer invincible physical strength and excellent character and finally blessings of almighty is sought to enable them to take the motherland to pinnacle of glory.

Doctorji also said that one hour Shaka was to initiate Swayamsevaks to inspire them to dedicate themselves to the noble and onerous task of nation building. But moulding of character of swayamsevaks was a whole time job after shakha hours to be performed by the Karyakartas of the RSS. He advised and encouraged swayamsevaks to undertake higher education and for that purpose to go to different places in the country. He said higher educational attainment by Karyakartas would confer better suitability and capacities to spread the work of the RSS and going to different places was necessary to spread the work of RSS throughout the country.

(The author is a former governor of Bihar.)

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Rights group seeks protection for Hindus in Bangladesh

New Delhi, Sept. 18 (PTI): A US-based human rights group, which studied the recent rise in violence against the Hindus in Bangladesh, has asked the international community to exert pressure on the Khaleda Zia government to curtail the "dangerous" growth of fundamentalist outfits in the country.

Citing 402 incidents of attacks on Hindus in the country between January and November last year, the group has concluded that "the direct threat to the Hindus is in Bangladesh."

"They are the only remaining Hindu population of substantial size outside India that is suffering human rights abuses and being rapidly expelled by an Islamist regime", the 'Hindu American Foundation' said in a study on the issue.

The Foundation, which states it is not affiliated to any religious or political organisation, also observed that "no definitive or demonstrably effective measures have been taken by the Bangladesh government to attend the concerns of the Hindu victims and to augment the physical and psychological security of that population".

There were only two non-Muslim members in the 51-member Khaleda Zia Ministry, ranked 46th and 48th in terms of seniority and importance, it said.

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'Country not safe in the hands of Congress'

Press Trust of India
Posted online: Sunday, September 18, 2005

Chennai, September 18: Teming as serious the allegations against Congress leaders contained in a book by a former Soviet archivist, the BJP and RSS on Sunday said the country was not safe in the hands of the ruling party and sought an explanation from it on the issue.

"It is a very serious issue. The Congress and the Communists have been accused of taking money from the KGB. Both, particularly the Congress, which is at the helm of affairs owe an explanation to the country," BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.

RSS spokesman Ram Madhav claimed that while the allegations contained in the second volume of The Mitrokin Archive related to the 1970s, another book The State Within the State-KGB and Its Hold on Russia referred to such intense ties between KGB and Congress leaders in the 1980s.

He alleged that the book published in 1994 contained serious allegations against the Gandhi family.

"The country cannot be safe in their hands. We need to give a serious thought to the implications for the country over the links the Congress and the Gandhi family had with the Soviets," Madhav said.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Increasing defiance of secularism by Muslims?

By M.V.Kamath

When India became independent after being partitioned on religious lines, it was part of Delhi’s faith that it would be secular in every possible way in sharp contrast to Pakistan’s approach that Muslims constitute a separate nation. There was no other stand that India could possibly have taken.

If India’s political leaders agreed to partition it was not because they agreed to the Two-Nation Theory but because they were unwilling to land the entire country into a civil war on religious grounds. Perhaps they should have chosen the option, even if it reduced the entire country temporarily into a shambles.

At the very least it would have saved a lot of trouble in later years. The Muslim community would have found its place in a secular government and all would have been well. But after spending several years in jail and unwilling to see the country torn to pieces because of intransigence on the part of certain Muslim leaders, Congress leaders and they were then the voice of the people decided, howsoever unwillingly, to accept partition.

Those Muslims left in India then realised that they cannot afford to alienate the majority community any longer, lest they invite its wrath. The Congress Party fully cashed in on it and won election after election with the Muslim support.

At the same time, Muslims began to realise that they could live in India without, fear, that indeed they got better terms as a minority than they ever dreamt of and had not Pakistan turned into a religious state, first under General Ayub Khan and later under Gen Zia, their future would have been brighter than they visualised.

Instead of learning to live in peace, successive Pakistan leaders felt compelled to treat India as an enemy, their minds psyched to the days of Mohamad of Ghazni. That psyche has not changed. It was Gen. Ayub Khan who said that one Pakistani (Muslim) soldier was equal to ten Indian (Hindu) sepoys.

Never mind if he got a bloody nose and that in three successive wars, Pakistan was defeated. But the psyche, it would seem, continues. Pakistani students are now being taught that Hindus are “devious and cowardly”. And this, not in madrassahs which, according to facts revealed by a US organisation, at best teach 1.7 million students, but in Government-rum schools that cater to 25 million students.

What kind of society can one expect to grow in Pakistan under such a vicious educational system? This was noticed even by the Wall Street Journal. It was noticed that Pakistani text books were also describing Christians as “vengeful conquerors” and Jews as “tight-fisted money-lenders”; all this went unnoticed for a long time with military-dominated Islamabad managing to camouflage its bigotry infested curricula from outside purview.

The United States, eager to enlist Islamic fundamentalists in its fight against the Soviet Union’s presence in Afghanistan, for a long time turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s educational system, but now, especially after what Al-Qaeda has done, is waking up to the reality that is Pakistan.

The US State Department has now apparently taken the matter on hand. In an unusually tough statement the State Department has said that continued teaching of prejudice in Pakistan is a matter of “serious concern” and that it has engaged the Pakistan Government on this issue described as “clearly unacceptable and inciteful”.

The State Department’s spokesman, Sean McCormick told the media that Pakistan’s Education Minister Javed Ashraf Qazi has been apprised of Washington’s concern but there is scepticism in many US quarters that Islamabad would do anything to rectify the situation, considering that Qazi is a former ISI chief and like Musharraf is a product of the Pakistani military that has fed a distorted historical narrative to its people.

According to Pakistani text books, “under the Khiljis Pakistan moved southward to include a greater part of Central India and the Deccan (and) in retrospect it may be said that during the 16th century,Hindustan`disappeared and was completely absorbed in Pakistan’.

It is one thing for Pakistan to write such stuff but, what is more to be aware of, is the increasing defiance of secularism in India by Muslim organisations which have not, for once, stood by the Indian Government on the matter of Jammu & Kashmir. The sheer impertinence of a Muslim organisation to claim that Taj Mahal is its property, takes one’s breath away.

It cannot just be a coincidence that the Deoband Dar-ul-Uloom recently tried to find out how far it can go to destroy India’s secularism. At first Deoband asserted that it has every right to issue political fatwas.

Had India meekly succumbed to this, Deoband would have gone a step further, and then still another step further, to destroy India’s secularism. Happily, the government quickly asserted that fatwas issued by Islamic institutions are not valid in the eyes of law.

The Deoband fatwa claims to have been only in connection with religious (read civil) matters. If the government had given in, Deoband would have interfered in criminal matters as well, turning the Government of India’s Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 into a huge joke.

In a timely intervention, Union Law Minister H. R. Bharadwaj has said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha that the procedure to be followed in criminal courts are set out in the Code of Criminal Procedure and that the fatwas issued by Islamic institutions do not have legal sanctity.

That is not enough; Deoband and all other Islamic institutions must be sternly warned that any interference with established law in the country would be very sternly dealt with.

Now we are told that Deoband has decided not to issue any more fatwas on non-religious matters and those that have political overtones. Maulana Marghoobur Rehman, vice Chancellor, is reported to have said that Muftis issuing controversial fatwas discouraging Muslim women from contesting elections, have been asked not to issue a fatwa having political overtones.

Deoband apparently received about 200 applications for fatwa every month. It is nobody’s contention that in a caste dispute, a caste body cannot act as an arbitrator. In Mumbai a caste organisation even settles civil disputes through mutual understanding of parties concerned.

That has become necessary because taking civil cases to courts is not only costly but time-consuming. Justice is not available for months, if not years. But it is one thing to settle civilmatters privately and quite another to issue religious fatwas making a mockery of secularism.

According to the new face of Deoband, in issuing a fatwa that women seeking elections should wear burqa all that was meant was that “Muslim women who participate in any political process should dress accordingly and conduct themselves with dignity in public life”.

Does that mean that Hindu women who address public meetings are dressed indecently and don’t carry themselves with dignity? What nonsense is being so openly purveyed? One suspects that there is a larger organisation that is behind these new developments in Bangladesh, when some 500 bombs and grenades were simultaneously exploded in 63 out of 64 districts, it became clear that some powerful organisation of fundamentalists was behind it.

It is not easy to manufacture these bombs, convey them to districts without interference and get them exploded within 30 minutes without some powerful organisation behind it all. Hardly anybody was killed; what is implied in this is that if the government does not bend down to the fundamentalists, they are fully capable of indulging in large-scale killings.

Some organisations like the Jammat-i-Islami, Islami Oikya Jote, Islamic tantra-Andonlam and Khilafat Andolan have been identified but they are obviously financed by outside bodies. Suspect are Pakistan’s ISI and, for good measure, Saudi Arabia. India is taking everything lightly. Bangladeshi Muslims are pushed into West Bengal and Assam districts to the point that many districts on the Nepal and Bangladesh periphery are having Muslim majorities.

The Bangladeshis have to be identified and summarily thrown out of the country. India cannot afford the luxury of tolerance and patience. Its very security is involved. It makes no sense to build fences. Fences can be broken. And the Bangladesh Rifles feel free to open fire on India’s Border Security Force in the Malda area. That is some cheek.

What India should do is to read the Riot Act to Dhaka and warn it that India might mount a major invasion to protect its territorial integrity. Magnanimity does not pay where fundamentalists are concerned. They treat Indians (read Hindus) as weak and their tolerance is misinterpreted as lack of courage and pure cowardice.

India must realise that it has to deal with two fundamentalist states which have no respect for law. It is now learnt that India is planning to give $ 150 million credit to Dhaka, which is totally unscrupulous when it comes to India, with Bangla Industries Minister Motiur Rahman Nizami even going to the extent of accusing India of triggering off the 17 August bomb blasts!

In 1998 then Governor of Assam Lt Gen S. K. Sinha had warned about Bangladeshi infiltration into Assam and West Bengal. Now, a former Director General of India’s Border Security Force is quoted as saying that it is high time “we changed our policy, attitude and national priorities and tell Bangladesh that enough is enough”. It was a proper Muslim, Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk, who had the courage to ban burqa and turn his state into a modern nation.

India must take a lesson from Kemal Ataturk. Burqa must be banned in public. That is pure secularism. But what can one expect from a Congress government which permits a text book published under its auspices to say that Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa was “mentally deranged”?

Hindu saints can be insulted under secularism. Muslim fundamentalism remains insulated. India is paying a dear price for its fake secularism. It is time Indians have started to realise it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Smash terror before it sparks III WW: Vajpayee

ATIQ KHAN
Posted online: Monday, September 12, 2005

Lucknow, September 12: Warning that global network of terrorists and rising incidents of terror attacks might trigger off third world war, former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, today called upon the world leaders to sink their differences to wipe out terrorism.

“Unfortunately, countries were not united in fight against terror. When India drew attention to terrorism, countries like the US scoffed at the possible dangers but after 9/11, the situation changed, and India stood vindicated,” Vajpayee told a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers’ convention here.

The menace, he said, became more ominous when it was linked with religion. “This is sheer madness which should be confronted with full vigour”, he said.

In this context, the former prime minister referred to the July 5 attack in Ayodhya and blamed the security agencies and the government for not being alert and allowing the terrorists to reach ominously close to the Ram Mandir complex. “We tend to become careless”, he said.

Vajpayee attacked the UPA government for “going soft on Naxals” which he said was in stark contrast to the NDA government’s approach. Vajpayee said Naxalites had spread their network from the Nepal border to Sri Lanka. “The NDA government would have crushed the problem but could not get support from the state governments”, he added.

He also attacked the UPA government for “suspending” development schemes launched by the NDA government and power and water crisis.

Vajpayee also criticised the Central government for hike in petrol and diesel prices and said oil exploration should be a continuos process. He said the UPA government had failed to show resolve in tackling people’s issues.

Exhorting the BJP workers to pull themselves out of setback in the Lok Sabha elections, he said defeat was bad but it should not have a debilitating influence. “The dream of India is slowly being fulfilled and the contribution of the six-year rule of the NDA government would be remembered”, Vajpayee said.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Rebuilt Hindu temple in Canada is symbol against hate

Sep. 10, 2005

A temple in the Canadian province of British Columbia that was destroyed in hate crimes following the 9/11 terror bombings in the US has been rebuilt and will be inaugurated Sunday - exactly four years later. Called Project Elimination of Hate Crime, the temple located in Hamilton, will be inaugurated at a public function. The temple, destroyed on Sep 15, 2001, has become known as the Canadian Ground Zero and received donations from across the globe, the South Asian Observer newspaper here reported. Multi-faith groups from Hamilton and the surroundings joined hands to rebuild the temple and eliminate hate crimes from the face of the world. The project also initiated programmes to heal victims of such crimes. The organisers, Board of Directors of Hindu Samaj of Hamilton and Region, have demanded that national heritage status be granted to the temple. ''The government took 20 years to recognize the 1985 Air India bombing disaster as a Canadian tragedy. We hope that we will not have to wait for another 20 years for the temple to be recognized as a ''historic site'','' says a press release issued by the organisers. Federal and provincial ministers, prominent members of all federal and provincial parties, representatives from the UN, the high commissioner and the consulate general of India, and many MPs and local politicians and businessmen have been invited to attend the function.

Sikhs fall foul of French

Reuters
Saturday, September 10, 2005

Paris, September 10: Two Sikh boys have fallen foul of France's ban on religious clothing in state schools this year, with one excluded because of his turban and another forced to wear a small cloth instead, a Sikh activist said on Friday.

Gurinder Singh, 17, was barred from class in a Paris suburb because he refused to remove the keski, or under-turban, that his school let him wear last year, said Kudrat Singh of the United Sikhs pressure group.

Hardeep Singh, 13, was only allowed into class when he agreed to wear a small cloth over the top-knot of his uncut hair. Sikh men do not cut their hair for religious reasons.

Three Sikh boys were expelled from school last year for wearing their turbans, which officials said violated a new ban on religious symbols in state schools aimed mostly at stopping Muslim girls from attending in headscarves.

Over 600 Muslim girls turned up for school with veils last year and 47 of them were expelled for refusing to remove them. Hardly any such cases were reported this year.

Gurinder Singh was now negotiating with school officials in another Paris suburb and could be expelled in a few weeks if they fail to find a solution, Kudrat Singh said.

"He is too old to just wear a little cloth like a child," he added, ruling out a compromise.

A local Catholic school, which as a private establishment does not ban religious symbols, took in the three Sikh boys expelled last year after saying at first that it could not.

Kudrat Singh said the Sikhs appreciated the gesture by the Catholic school but did not see it as a full solution.

"There is no guarantee that all Sikh students will be admitted to Catholic schools," he said.

About 5,000 Sikhs, whose monotheistic religion started in India's Punjab region in the 15th century, live in France, mostly in the Paris area.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Joshi assails move to distort Indian history

Author: Pioneer News Service
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: September 5, 2005

Former human resource minister Murli Manohar Joshi on Sunday assailed the move to distort the Indian history by the NCERT and demanded that school syllabus, which described Lord Ram and Lord Krishna as 'imaginary figures,' should be scraped immediately.

He said: "Our children are taught that Rama and Krishna are imaginary figures, Aryans came from outside and they consumed beef." Mr Joshi, a senior BJP leader, was addressing a gathering on the occasion of the 27th foundation day of Kendriya Arya Yuvak Parishad.

Just two-day before the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) meeting to finalise the National Curriculum Framework 2005, Mr Joshi's statement indicates that the school education ministers from the five BJP-ruled States are not likely to accept the 'distortions' which, the observers claim, came due to the Marxist influence.

Mr Joshi, who was the former HRD minister during the NDA rule, said instead efforts should be made to "save" India's culture, history and religion. He demanded that the Vedas, Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads should be included in the school curriculum.

"We generally look down upon our own culture, religion and history and those who talk about these issues are immediately dubbed as "communal," he said.

He regretted that "such a situation can happen only in India." To elaborate his claim, he gave the example of Assam Chief Minister having to withdrew his statement that the Bangladeshi immigrants were in a majority in some of the districts.

"If we raise these issues, we will be accused of spreading hatred," he said taking a dig on the Congress-led and Left-supported UPA. He reminded the Left and the Congress-backed historians to listen to the latest studies which have proved beyond doubt that the Aryans originated in India and they never came from outside. "But it is still being taught that way," Mr Joshi said.

Addressing the gathering earlier, BJP Parliamentary Party leader in the Lok Sabha V K Malhotra said successive governments have over the years appeased Muslims in such a manner that even Muslims in Pakistan do not enjoy such benefits.

"India is the only country in the world to have a commission for the minorities. Other nations have Human Rights Commissions. "We in India are also planning to bring about a separate minority education bill and two commissions are looking into their socio-economic status," he said.

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India should adopt a uniform civil code

Author: Ishtiaq Ahmed
Publication: Daily Times
Date: September 6, 2005

Special rights for specific groups in the form of reservations and quotas are justified. These help overcome historical disadvantages and assist powerless groups to join the mainstream. The Dalits are a case in point. However, exempting religious communities from progressive legislation has the exact opposite results

On August 17, 2005, the press reported that the Indian Supreme Court has ordered the Darul-ul-Uloom of Deoband and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), the two most important Muslim bodies in India, to reply to a petition filed against them. The petition charges the two organisations with interfering with the country’s legal system and introducing parallel Islamic laws in violation of the Constitution.

Islamic organisations informally arbitrate on many matters in India, but when their rulings glaringly conflict with the law, the judicial system is bound take some action. This petition refers particularly to the alleged rape in June of a Muslim woman, Imrana, mother of five children, by her father-in-law, Ali Muhammad, in Charthawal Tehsil of Muzaffarnagar district, UP.

Initially the local Muslim Panchayat (council of elders) declared that Imrana could not live with her husband any longer, even though he was not willing to separate from her, because his father had sex with her. The Panchayat did not stop at that. It ordered her to start living with the rapist as his wife. This decision was endorsed by a mufti of the prestigious Sunni Muslim seminary of Deoband. The ulema of another important Sunni seminary, Farangi Mahal of Lucknow, followed suit.

However, dissident Muslim voices were raised against this decision. The Ahl-e-Hadith and Shia ulema and many Muslim academics criticised the Deobandi and Farangi Mahal ulema for giving a decision against the alleged victim.

The Hindutva lobby latched on to the fatwa of the ulema, describing it as repressive of women and intensified their campaign for abolishing Muslim personal law. The liberal media produced a spate of articles, sympathising with the woman and calling for reforms within Muslim society. As always, nothing conclusive came out of the hullabaloo. The Union and state governments kept quiet, asserting that the police was investigating the case and that as long as a court did not hear the case and give a judgment, they could express an opinion on the issue.

The controversy surrounding the Imrana rape case reminds me of the theological bickering that attended the Shah Bano case of 1985. Begum Shah Bano, a middle-aged Muslim woman from Madhya Pradesh, was divorced by her husband, MA Khan after 43 years of marriage. She filed a petition in the state High Court that as an Indian citizen she was entitled to financial support from her former husband.

This was rejected by Mr Khan who mobilised the conservative ulema in his favour. Angry voices were raised against the verdict, leading to demonstrations all over India. Their stand was that Islam did not allow alimony beyond the period of iddat (which is about three months to ascertain whether the woman is pregnant or not. If she is, the child is entitled to support from the father). When the Supreme Court eventually ruled conclusively in the wife’s favour, Syed Shahabuddin, the president of the influential All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (Muslim consultative assembly), and other Muslim leaders condemned what they saw as an intrusion by the Indian state into the private domain of Muslim communal life.

On that occasion also many liberal and progressive Muslims, including academics, lawyers, jurists, members of parliament, women activists and political workers mobilised in favour of the Supreme Court judgment. But the conservative forces outnumbered the modernists. Unwilling to antagonise the Muslim vote-bank, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi supported the traditional standpoint. The Indian parliament passed a special law, exempting Muslims from obligations to financially support ex-wives.

To understand these issues concerning Indian Muslims we have to look at the country’s history and legal system. Although article 44 of the Indian constitution lays down that a uniform civil code, imposing the same civil rights on all male and female citizens, will be adopted by India, this has never been implemented fully. Nehru initiated a number of reforms, modernising and democratising the Hindu marriage and inheritance laws. These reforms were also applicable to Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. The reforms forbade Hindu men to take more than one wife, prohibited child-marriages, and gave daughters and sons equal inheritance rights. However, the Muslim community was exempted from these reforms.

An exception was made for the Muslims because the Congress Party had pledged to the ulema of the Jamiat-e-ulema-e-Hind who had supported the party’s freedom struggle that the Indian state would not interfere in Muslim personal law. Instead the party and the state would wait for the Muslims to voluntarily assimilate into mainstream political life and thus participate in the democratic nation-building project.

Successive government continued to make changes in family laws, but it was never made clear if they applied to the Muslims or not. For example it was laid down that if a man divorced his wife and she had no source of income, the divorcing husband was obliged to provide for her in accordance with his income. The Shah Bano case made it clear that the progressive reforms carried out to protect the interests of women did not apply to Muslims.

The exemption which Nehru’s government made for the Muslims was based on good faith that Muslim community leaders would prepare their members to voluntarily join the mainstream. However, the expectations were in vain. Instead the ulema promoted isolationism of Muslims. As a result the Indian Muslim community is poor and lags behind other communities in education and other socio-economic indicators. Muslim women in particular are the most vulnerable because traditional Islamic law on marriage, divorce and inheritance is outmoded and inadequate and does not protect their rights.

Special rights for specific groups in the form of reservations and quotas are justified. These help overcome historical disadvantages and assist powerless groups to join the mainstream. The Dalits are a case in point. However, exempting religious communities from progressive legislation has the exact opposite results. It is high time that India adopts a uniform, common civil code which confers equal rights on all men and women.

The author is an associate professor of political science at Stockholm University. He is the author of two books. His email address is Ishtiaq.Ahmed@statsvet.su.se

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Absolute power corrupts

by Sandhya Jain

In the cyclical battles between the Devas and the Asuras, there are moments when the latter, ensconced in an overweening arrogance, appear all-powerful and invincible. The wise know their fall will be sudden, dramatic, and complete. And so it shall be with the so-called Revolutionary Leader of Tamil Nadu, who has violated immutable rules of dharma by subordinating the sacred to State power.

In a technical sense, when Ms Jayalalithaa ordered the arrest of the Kanchi Shankaracharya last November on alleged charges of conspiracy to murder a former Matham employee, she was within the bounds of her duties as Chief Minister. Murder calls for State cognizance and action, and the authorities were bound to investigate the crime and take appropriate action. That many believe there is no credible evidence to link either the Shankaracharya or Bal Shankaracharya with the crime, and that the inquiry is motivated by a larger political conspiracy, is another matter.

But the Chief Minister grossly exceeded her limits when she (no one else would dare) directed the office of the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments to ensure that Swami Jayendra Saraswati was denied access to the garba griha of the Ramanathaswamy Mandir in Rameswaram, to perform puja, which is his customary and religious right according to mandir rules. The magnitude of his insult can be gauged from the fact that this right is believed to have been conferred by the Deity Himself, and has been bestowed upon just three dignitaries, viz., the Shankaracharyas of Sringeri and Kanchi and the King of Nepal.

Ramanathaswamy Mandir is no ordinary site; it commemorates the spot where Shri Rama worshipped Bhagvan Shiva before crossing the sea to defeat Ravana, and is a site of tremendous spiritual power. It is hardly surprising that this was the first major temple the Shankaracharya chose to visit after being implicated in a host of cases by the former actress. Not even the Indian Prime Minister or President, and certainly not the imperious lady, has the right to enter its sanctum sanctorum and worship the Deity directly.

Hence it was not a small shock for the Acharya and his devotees to be told by unhappy temple authorities that they had instructions from the Government (read Ms. Jayalalithaa) not to permit him to enter the garba griha of any temple under its control. His Holiness adjusted to this horrible disrespect with grace and equanimity, asking the priests to perform puja on his behalf and worshipping the Deity from the spot where pilgrims are allowed special darshan. Mercifully, he was not asked to pay for the 'special darshan.'

The official on the scene of this outrage, the Joint Commissioner, Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments, explained that he had instructions from the Commissioner not to allow anyone to enter the inner sanctum. Since the only visitor who had this right was the Kanchi Shankaracharya, it does not take much imagination to realize that His Holiness was being singled out for humiliation at the hands of the State.

That this was purely intentional became clear the next day when the State authorities repeated the misdemeanour. Apparently the temple priests were extremely distressed at being made to deny the Shankaracharya access to the sanctum sanctorum; they apologized and asked him to return for puja the next morning. Accordingly, Swami Jayendra Saraswati took the holy bath in the Agnitheertham, but was made to wait for three hours before being told that permission was again denied. The Acharya was also denied entry into the garba griha of the Dhanuskodi Kothanda Ramar temple, though the temple manuals explicitly state that the Kanchi Sankaracharyas have the right to perform pujas in the sanctum sanctorum. Indeed, they have been doing so for centuries.

Hindus believe anyone can choose the path away from dharma. The Tamil Chief Minister has lost her moral equipoise since her party's rout in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. She prostrated before the State's Hindu-baiting media; withdrew the anti-conversion law and is complicit in the cancerous growth of the conversion industry; and indulged in a vicious assault upon one of the tallest Hindu spiritual leaders.

It is a measure of Hindu disarmament at the hands of the BJP's determinedly secular leadership that no credible opposition could be launched against the outright assault upon Hindu institutions. There is a great urgency for the Hindu community to regain control of temples from the State, which has no respect for the sanctity of either the temples or the Gurus. A credible legal case can be made about religious discrimination against the Hindu community, because rich Hindu temples are alone seized by Government and their resources diverted to ends for which there is no public mandate.

In Karnataka, the annual revenue of over Rs 72 crore from Hindu temples is misused to support faiths that condemn Hindu dharma as "false" and indulge in conversions; Rs 50 crore goes as Hajj subsidy and Rs 10 crores as church maintenance. Hindu temples can barely cover the salary of priests, and have nothing left for maintenance. Yet Chief Minister Dharam Singh shamelessly hosted the super-evangelist Benny Hinn, who is currently under the scrutiny of the US Internal Revenue Service!

The situation is hardly better in other states. In Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy used his position to bring Christian institutions into the decision making loop of the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam and its institutions, and may even be facilitating a church on the holy hills. In Kerala, the State Government wanted to loot Guruvayur Devaswom funds for a water supply and drainage scheme for the town; only stiff Hindu opposition finally shelved the scheme.

What is being undermined here is not the Hindu right over utilisation of temple funds, however substantial, but the foundational tenet of Hindu dharma that man owes a debt to the gods (daiva rna), to the teachers (gurus rna) and to the ancestors (pitr rna). Today, only the last is still being paid because it lies within the realm of the individual households.

Daiva rna has been usurped by the government which not only takes away current temple revenues, but even the lands that devotees have bequeathed over centuries for the upkeep of temples. The Andhra Government recently sold 250 acres of endowment land for a pittance, when the market price was at least one crore per acre. There is a sustained disrespect of Hindu dharma by the so-called secular state. What right does the government have to appoint members to the Boards of major temples (usually members of the party in power, and even IAS officers)?

State interference in Hindu institutions violates Article 26, which guarantees every denomination the freedom to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; to manage its own affairs in matters of religion; to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and to administer such property in accordance with law.

Given the awesome State mismanagement, the Supreme Court would do well to revisit the Guruvayur Temple verdict, wherein it held that State could appoint managers as temple administration is a secular task, as opposed to spiritual management. Since Article 26 explicitly bestows freedom to "administer such property in accordance with law," there is no justification for the State appropriating temple property and revenues on the pretext of supervising them.

New victim of Indian politics: Supreme Court

By: Aruni Mukherjee
September 05, 2005

In a dramatic “access of exasperation”, India’s Supreme Court smashed one of the many balls lobbed in its court by the Government of India regarding reservations for backward classes in private educational institutions, as its months of frustration with the executive branch finally spilled over earlier this week. Needless to say, it has resulted in an intense squabble for gaining political and constitutional ground among the legislative, executive and the judiciary. The entire picture is yet to become clear, but dragging the apex court, one of India’s last remaining venerated institutions, into the political mud-slinging does not bode well for the political discourse in India.

The most startling aspect of this outburst was the terminology in use by the 3-justice bench headed by the Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti, who was unequivocal in expressing his disappointment with the government’s attitude. Slamming the Attorney General Milon K Banerjee, the chief justice said, “Tell us, we will wind up the courts and [you can] then do whatever you want”. Never have such strong words come out of the courts for the government. It seems, however, that Justice Lahoti had ample reasons to be unimpressed.

First, this is the fourth time the Supreme Court has had to make a judgement on a public interest litigation on the same issue- that of giving minorities privileged access to private funded educational institutions. This time it is about the rights of “dalit” Christians; earlier it was about Jains, and so on. There have been rulings against such proposals by three separate benches of 5, 7 and 11 judges, and yet this issue has been propped up again by vested interests, eager to cater to their respective vote banks. While stopping short of explicitly ridiculing the government for its failure to comprehend the clear interpretation of the constitution by the court, it nevertheless implied the same.

Second, the government has been dragging its feet about setting up a committee to review the feasibility of identifying certain Christians as “dalits”, and therefore giving them equal rights as other Scheduled Castes and Tribes enshrined in Article 29 and 30 of the Constitution of India. While the Supreme Court ordered the setting up of this commission nearly a year ago, it is only a day before the hearing for the present case that the government ordered the same. Therefore when the attorney general tried to appease the court by thanking it for “not precipitating setting up of [the] committee”, Justice Lahoti reacted sharply by slashing the 4 month investigation period requested by the centre to 6 weeks, and ordered a status report to be handed in on the 18th of October.

Third, although the government has been mouthing a non-confrontational line in dealing with the highest court of the land, in practice it is planning to bypass the court somehow. The Law Minister H.R. Bharadwaj recent said, “I have not said anything contrary to it [the ruling].” Union Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh said that the government was “not looking for a confrontation with the judiciary”. However, calling the Supreme Court’s ruling “uncalled for” and accusing it of fostering “animosity”, Loksabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee made clear that the parliament will reserve the right to pass a law in favour of an issue over which general political consensus is building. Significantly, if a statue law is passed, it risks being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The parties are therefore contemplating amending the constitution by a 2/3rd majority in the parliament, thus coercing the court to toe their line. No wonder Justice Lahoti advised the attorney general to advise his client to “exercise self-restraint”.

Successive governments in the past have used the amendment tool to squirm out of uncomfortable constitutional dead-ends. The Indian Constitution- already the largest in the world with 395 Articles- has 92 long and detailed amendments to go with it. Had they been done to update a constitution that has outlived its relevance to changing times, the court would have little to say. But it is done to make short-term political gains, notwithstanding it destroying the balance of power among the three branches of the state. Little surprise that Justice Lahoti instructed the government “to give respect to the court [that] it deserves”.

For objective analysis, it needs to be mentioned that the judiciary has remained the most effective organ of the state, since it is also the least politicised. In recent months, it has pulled up the federal government’s not-so-subtle efforts to sweep the dirt in Jharkhand politics under the carpet. It has also allowed the Central Vigilance Commission to raise the Taj Corridor issue that affects one of the heavyweights of Uttar Pradesh politics- ex-chief minister Mayawati. Now with the legislative and executive branch joining forces- the recent hoopla over quotas has seen the right wing BJP sharing the stage with the communists- might just tip the balance against the court. Naturally the court resents the loss of the elevated stature it long enjoyed.

However, is that so wrong? For one, the court is making a principled point that is not- as the government alleges- “unwarranted criticism”. The entire system of reservations for backward classes has failed miserably in India. All it has managed to do is encourage a “creamy layer” among those classes, which prevents the benefits reaching the really under-privileged. For another, the quotas tear apart the social fabric, as it thrives on snatching someone’s job to give to another without proper meritocratic competition. Extending such a distorted system of favouritism to the private sector is a prime example of the state encroaching on the individual’s rights. Instead of allowing a healthy political debate, which might result in resources being diverted to ensure the proper distribution of public services to the most backward, the parties are taking the easy way out by compartmentalising access to education.

This whole debate raises a fundamental question about secularism- and it increasingly shows that in India it is a façade. Secularism rests on the rejection of preference by the state of any particular religion or caste in public life. In India, it has translated into anti-majoritarianism, depriving the poorly defined “majority” for the minorities, and inventing new categories of minorities on a regular basis. Quashing yet another move towards further legalising social discrimination, the Supreme Court is on the right side of the fence on this issue. Yet it may well be a temporary victory, as political parties in Delhi move to introduce an amendment in the winter session of parliament. Indian politics has yet another victim- first it was economics; this time it is the Supreme Court.

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