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Monthly Archives: May 2007

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Religious shake-ups!

Wake up call for Hindus! This news-item tells us that 50,000 Dalit Hindus chose to convert to Buddhism at a ceremony held at Mumbai on May 27,07. In this modern age, if we donot see reforms in Hinduism and these trends continue coupled with missionary zeal of Christians and Islamic conversions, the course of India (already reduced from Vrahad Bharat, ie, Great India) it seems is destined to change further!

Another interesting news. Jama Masjid United Forum (www.jmuf.org) recently held a seminar in New Delhi and tried to take on Islamic terrorism. That is a welcome step. There is an impression gaining around that educated and right -thinking Muslims donot come forward and criticize Islamic terrorism which has gripped many parts of the world. JMUF seems to dispel that notion. From the new-item it seems that Mr Bukhari may be playing to the gallery, nevertheless the efforts are laudable.

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Al Gore and his latest book

Al Gore in his new book “The Assault on Reason” has tried to reason out that dimensions the American democracy has taken, it is in danger of being hollowed out. An article worth reading. It has been published in “Time” magazine (may 28,2007). Its theme is much more relevant to Indian democracy where there is an increasing trend of muscle-power, money-power and lung-power. If we donot realize the perils, the democracy may become mobocracy.

End this religious tussle!

In Punjab, the tussle between Sikhs and the followers of Sacha Sauda (the Chief of the sect is Gurmeet Ram Rahim) has snowballed into a major controversy and the diktat by Akal Takht (Sikhs’ supreme leaders) that the Sauda must pack up and leave Punjab has the potential to intensify the conflict.
The last week has witnessed much of violence and loss of valuable time and property. Wheras the grievances of both the communities may not be misplaced, it is time for the religious leaders to rise above the mundane issues and provide healing touch. Sikhism has been a great religion and the supreme leaders (Akal takht and SGPC) must display the same tenets instead of asking the followers of other sect to “bundle up and leave”! Similarly, Sacha Sauda must also come upto the expectations of the Sikhs and send out a message of brotherhood and camaraderie.
Malcolm Forbes said: “Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” As per protagonists of religions, same logic applies to religion (though rationalists think contrary to this).

PS: As of May 23, the conflict continues and SGPC is insistent that the Dera must pack up and move out of the Punjab by May 27. Queried about the legality of the Akal Takht’s hukumnama, or edict, seeking closure of all dera properties by May 27, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said he was “ignorant” of laws or the constitution.
Now this is highly unfortunate and many Sikhs , I am sure, will not agree with what SGPC is saying. It seems these days religious institutions play politics instead if minding the religion! What Dera or its Chief did -that reportedly hurt Sikhs’ sentiments – was unfortunate. What SGPC is doing is equally unpalatable! Last, but not the least, the efforts by Swami Agnivesh to lead an all-religion delegation to end this tussle is appreciated.

Is freedom failing?

In a very thought-provoking commentary, Peter Beinart says that in many countries that have embraced democracy since the cold war’s end, free elections haven’t reduced corruption, violence or poverty. Further, if freedom does not put food on the table, people will embrace tyranny. The article published in Time (May 21,2007) can be accessed through this link.

In response to this article, Jocelyn Fong from Phoenix comments in her letter to the editor that there is a fundamental relationship between economics and politics and adds: “but he (Beinart) also encourages readers to question the export of American democracy”. And that ” It is time for a shift from the Bush Administration’s vague, rhetorical emphasis on freedom to more concrete markers of democracy: human rights, peace and citizen participation.” Very apt comments, indeed! Though I am not sure, whether democracy has been a virtue patented by Americans only!

Mayawati’s ascension to power

The UP Vidhan Sabha (assembly) election results are out and Maywati of BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) has risen to power, ending 15 years of coalition era in UP. Uttar Pradesh is the biggest state -from electoral point of view- and is said to heavily impact the future of who governs at the Center. The results at a glance: Out of 403 seats, results declared 402: BSP 206, SP 97, BJP 50, Congress 22.

The BSP victory is surprising , indeed! Although election pundits were predicting BSP as the fore-runner, no one envisaged that it wll emerge out victorious with a clear-cut majority (has won 206 of 402 assembly seats.

Whereas the ruling party – Samajwadi Party led by the Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav- was expected to lose, most surprising aspect has been that BJP has suffered heavy losses in these elections grabbing just 50 seats (sliding down from 88). Congress party has been able to retain only 22 seats (sliding down from 25) despite Rahul Gandhi’s extensive campaigning.
Thus what is the miracle behind BSP’s ascension to power? BSP as the name itself indicates is based upon an ideology of upper caste bashing and uniting lower caste Hindus. This plank of uniting all lower caste Hindus looks appealing on papers but practically it never paid dividens to the party. Thus Mayawati shuffled her ideological stance this time, and tried to make a rainbow coalition of all castes including upper castes (bahujan to sarvjan): this successful display of social engineering consolidated the votes for her party and infact muslim votes also went her way, thus ensuring absolute majority for BSP.

It is ironic that a party (BSP) based upon divisive ideology could bring all castes together mustering a clear majority , but a party (BJP) which ideologically represents all these ingredients (nationalism, Hindutva) could not succees in this experiment ! It is a point of great introspection for BJP because what should have been a natural result of BJP’s ideological manifestation, Mayawati actually enacted it . Why RSS backed BJP has failed to consolidate Hindu votes despite its nationalistic outlook! One reaosn is increasing ‘congressisation” of BJP. Of late, BJP has increasingly tried to polarize nationals of this country on the line of religion and has infact tried to woo minorities as a vote bank. Congress’s pseudo-secularism is for everyone to see, but BJP too has created a kind of environment wherein it treats minorities (particularly Muslims) as per its own convenience: bashing them at one time to wooing them at another time! It is high time that RSS- backed BJP come out with a sincere appel for nationalism and this will prevail upon sinister political strategies of polarizing people on caste or religion basis.

A word of caution for our worthy voters: Mulayam’s exit and incumbent Mayawati’s rhetoric that she would weed out corruption must be taken with a pinch of salt. Neither has a clean slate as far as transparency in governance is concerned! One corrupt politician is being replaced by another in a phenomenon called “revolving door democracy” which has come to establish itself in India. Remember Mayawati had almost strangulated Taj corridor for the lust of money and no one knows the exat magnitudes of this scandal. Similarly Mulayam Singh Yadav is leaving the corridors of power after building an empire out of tax-payers’ money!

On a good note however, it was interesting to see Election Commission holding its firm grip over the whole process of multi-phasic electioneering in UP this time and this left the ousted Mulayam Singh Yadav almost gasping for breaths! How immoral of him that in a free and fair elections, he is accusing EC of suffocating democracy!

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