Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dying art, forgotten voters: The Mujra girls of Muzaffarpur

They want the new government to give them and their art form the dignity they deserve.


Ankit Tyagi @Ankit_Tyagi01

In an election where every vote is crucial and is being furiously fought for, surprisingly there is indeed a section of voters for whom nobody cares enough to win over.‎ Every corner of Muzaffarpur, which will vote on November 1 in the fourth phase of the Bihar Assembly elections, has seen high-decibel campaign. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held two rallies here and almost every star campaigner from either side has made a visit to Muzaffarpur. But move out of this place a little and ask for Chatarbhujsthan, you are in for a surprise. After the initial suspicious glances that will be thrown at your way, when you do traverse a kilometre-long dusty stretch, you see a channel of lanes and bylanes. And then, there it is, catching you slightly offguard. At once, you feel you are not quite in Muzaffarpur town itself. I mean of course, you are, but you realise where you have arrived is a place that is somehow cut off from the main city.

Outside every door is a board with a name and under it clearly written: “famous dancer, Mujra Mehfil specialist”. This is the “red light area” of Muzaffarpur. Mujra, an age-old tradition in Bihar, which is still an essential part of every wedding in the state, with time has not only lost its relevance and flavour, but now is almost a dying craft. "Ab pehley jaisey kadradan kaha rahe?” laments Reena, a mujrawali. Reena, in her forties, is way past her prime and is no longer a draw in these lanes. She had learnt the craft of singing and dancing from her mother who was also a mujra dancer. “I have seen times changing rapidly, our kala degenerating and people looking down upon my type as prostitutes. We don't sell our bodies but our craft,” says Reena, talking about the relatively glorious past.

 A mujrawali in Muzaffarpur rehearses for her performance. [Photo credit: Ankit Tyagi]

Stand outside the house in the gali and you won't know Muzaffarpur is going to polls. No flags, no posters, no campaign material, no hint of a rally. Despite having about 4,000 voters, no one cares to woo the residents of Chatarbhujsthan. While none of the candidate cares for coming here, the mujrawalis are looking forward to cast their votes.

In another house on the ground floor, in a room with pictures of a young girl all dressed up in lehenga and posing in different mudras, is Karishma. On the floor, are mattresses for the customers, lined up on one side are the musical instruments and on the other is area for the mujra performance. Karishma, in her mid-twenties, is the rising starlet of this area. It took her two years to learn mujra and she has been in the profession for the last five years. “Nobody comes in this profession now for the craft, it's majboori”, she says.

With voting day just right around the corner, there are expectations among these unlikely voters too. “It's sad they don't care even to come here, our vote is also important like anybody else's”, says Reena. “My kids can't even take my name in their school. We too want better infrastructure and less mehangai, and this what I am going to vote for. But as of now, I have not made up mind on any candidate”, she adds.

Karishma, too, will be voting. But she has a question for the candidates: why such apathy towards them? “It is only because of this attitude, people have misconceptions about us. If netas come here, perceptions about us will also improve”, she says.

 But sitting in one corner, a young girl clad in a green salwar kameez, listening to this conversation now speaks up. A first-time voter, Rinku has just entered this profession. What she says sums it up for all of the mujra girls: "I want to vote and I will vote for izzat. I don't do anything wrong and I want the stigma attached to mujra to disappear. I want the new government to give me and my art form the dignity we deserve.

Source: dailyo

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When Putin’s nod got Russian girl heart in TN

CHENNAI, October 31, 2015 | Updated: October 31, 2015 09:44 IST

Ramya Kannan

Viktoria Ivanova, a young girl from Siberia who underwent a heart transplant in the city recently, with her mother and grandmother. Photo: R. Ragu

Viktoria Ivanova is ready to go back to school

The spin of the Russian Roulette left Viktoria Ivanova with a rather bad deal. When this Siberian girl was about 10, they discovered she had a potentially fatal heart condition — restrictive cardio myopathy. They told her that it was as if she had the heart of a really old man, the ventricle walls abnormally rigid, unable to pump well. The only hope for the girl, the doctors grimly told her family, was a heart transplant.

Viktoria was once again dealt a lousy card, as it turned out that the law in Russia does not allow for paediatric heart transplants.

Her parents looked frantically for options outside the country, and inside the country to raise money for what was going to be a very expensive procedure. It came in, but not enough, and, meanwhile, they heard of K.R. Balakrishnan, a cardiac surgeon from India. He came highly recommended. That’s when things finally seemed to turn around. With the intervention of a journalist friend, Iulia says the issue went up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Talking to The Hindu through her translator Najiullah, she says, “Usually the Russian government provides assistance to children to go abroad for treatment. It is usually Europe.” “I had heard so much about Dr. Balakrishnan, I had decided if Viktoria was to have a transplant, then he’d have to do it. Happily for us, we heard that President Putin gave the go ahead. And here we are.”

Viktoria came to Chennai mid May with her mother and grandmother Natalia. When she checked into Fortis Malar hospital, where Dr. Balakrishnan heads the Cardiothoracic and Transplant Surgery unit, the temperature was hovering at a blistering 40 degrees Celsius, the polar opposite of the -40 degrees Celsius she is used to in Irkutsk, Siberia.

But for the family it was lovely, not only did they enjoy the warmth of the sun, but also the warmth of the people here. Viktoria received a heart in September, the donor a young man who was declared brain dead after an accident in Tiruvarur.

The team from Fortis Malar flew to Thanjavur where he had been admitted, retrieved the heart and flew back to sew it into Viktoria. “For me, it was like science fiction — you take a heart from a boy in Thanjavur and put it in a girl from Irkutsk and it beats,” says Dr. Balakrishnan. For him, this was special personally, because his mother’s family is from Thanjavur.

It was not easy though. Dr. Balakrishnan says hearts are not easily available for children. Adult hearts are bigger and heavier, and placing them in the child’s thoracic cavity is akin to putting the engine of a truck in a small car, he explains. Only eventually does the heart get used to the child’s rhythm.

Indeed it has. A shy Viktoria tells her mum that she is ‘very, very happy’ because she can walk, eat whatever she wants and go back to school. Iulia says, “I am so thankful, my daughter lives again. We are ready to go back and we are taking the Indian heart home with us.”

Source: thehindu

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Muslims, Christians and others are made to feel as second-class citizens: Dr Pushpa Bhargava

Friday, 30 October 2015 - 7:35am IST | Agency: dna | From the print edition

Nikhil M Ghanekar @NGhanekar

Bhargava, founder-director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, on Wednesday, decided to return his Padma Bhushan to protest against the decreasing space of dissent in the country. 

 Dr Pushpa M Bhargava - emminent scientist, writer and founder-director of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad Image Courtesy: Facebook

Reacting to Union finance minister Arun Jaitely's remark that the protest by writers, artists, historians and scientists is a 'manufactured rebellion', renowned scientist Pushpa Bhargava told dna that these protests are 'spontaneous reactions against the present atmosphere of intolerance'.

Bhargava, founder-director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, on Wednesday, decided to return his Padma Bhushan to protest against the decreasing space of dissent in the country.

"I am upset that the scientific and rational temper has not been maintained in the country. There is little space for dissent and minorities such as Muslims, Christians and others are made to feel as second-class citizens", Bhargava said. Commenting on the conflicts over cow slaughter and beef consumption, he added, "The present government wants to decide what I want to eat, what I think. It is also indulging in moral policing."

Source: dnaindia

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What Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsa tells you that Valmiki’s Ramayana doesn't

A lot can be learned from a comparative study of texts.


Rohini Bakshi @RohiniBakshi

Dussehra marks the end of the epic war between Rāma and Rāvaṇa and Dīpāvalī, the joyous return of Rāma and Sītā to Ayodhyā. In the festive lull between them, my grandmother regaled us with tales of the magical PuśpakaVimāna. Her stories came from Rāmcaritmānas. Tulsidas's driving force was his immense "bhakti" to Rāma, and since the journey didn't present an opportunity to praise him in any meaningful way, the poet did not spend too much time on it. Gran chose to embellish the journey with information from the rest of the text. That was her version. Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa devotes a good six sargas to the journey (Yuddha-kāṇḍa 122- 127). And recently I had cause to read an account of the same journey in Kālidāsa’sRaguvaṃśa. An Inter-textual study yields an understanding of many things, not least of which is the intent of the composer. I hasten to add this is not a hermeneutic study, just a preliminary exploration.

Here I compare Vālmīki’s version to that in the incomparably elegant Raghuvaṃśa of Kālidāsa. While Vālmīki’s version recapitulates for a wider audience key events leading to Rāma’s victory, Kālidāsa, writing for a refined court assemblage, focuses less on the gore and the mundane and more on the sublimity of Rāma’s love for Sītā, and on conveying the intense beauty of nature. Another cause for differences between the two versions stems from the fact that by Kālidāsa’s time, Rāma was unequivocally worshipped as anavatāra, whereas Vālmīki for the most part, portrays him as a man. Rāma’s divinity is referred to for the first time towards the end of the epic, when Mandodir? is lamenting on the battle field (6.111.14-17), Rāma chooses not to acknowledge this. Later, when Sītā is undergoing the fire ordeal, the gods inform him he is Nārāyaṇa, to which he says, I think of myself as a man (ātmānaṃ mānuṣaṃ manye 6.117.11).

Brahma then tells him in detail about his divinity.This has an implication for the two presentations, as we will see.

Kṣatra, martial prowess and victory are fore fronted by Vālmīki’s Rāma. He sets off by showing Sītā the Lankan battle fieldwhich is māṃsaśoṇitakardamam [whose mud is (covered with the) blood and flesh] of monkeys and rākṣasas. Identifying them by name, he points out where each rākṣasa fell and who he was killed by. The ocean crossing is dismissed in two verses - describing it as the abode of Varuṇa, and abounding in oysters and conch shells. (6.123.15,17).

Kiṣkindhā’s beautiful groves get a mentionprimarily as the location of Vali's killing. Others have a voice too during the journey. Sugrīva speaks up,and his wife and retinue are picked up, an event of no interest to Kālidāsa. Śabari is recalledby Vālmīki’s Rāma, Jaṭāyu is remembered, the killing of Khara is retold, the hermitage of Sutīkṣṇa is described. Chitrakūṭa, Yamunā, Gaṅgā, Śṛṇgaberapura, the Sarayū and finally Ayodhyā is described.

Kālidāsa opens with Rāma as Viṣṇu, stepping into his own space (ākāśa) as he steps into the Vimāna. Several verses then weave the different avatāras of Viṣṇu into the narrative. Next follows apersonal and highly romantic interaction between Rāma and Sītā. Kālidasā’s abilities to express śṛṅgāra rasa and to finesse nature dominate. The ocean, a mass of foam, split by the setu, is the mirror image of a clear autumnal sky (śaratprassanam) sprinkled with bright stars divided by the Milky Way (13.2). The legend of Sagara is told, which Vālmīki considered unnecessary, but strikes just the right note with the Gupta king and his courtiers for whom royal lineage would be important, and for whom K?lid?sa was writing. Rāma points out whales and sea creatures frolicking in the water, cleaving the surface of the ocean and jets of water bursting forth from the spouts on top of their heads. Again, enthralling the court seems to be the purpose.

Rāma tells Sītā that the corals in the sea (vidruma) are vying with (the colour of) her lips (13.13), and the breeze from the shore is adorning her face again and again with ketaka pollen, as if knowing Rāma is unable to bear this waste of time, thirsting for her ruby lips. (13.16). Vālmīki knows that Rāma’s brother, Vibhīṣaṇa, Hanumān, Sugrīva and all the monkeys are in the Puśpaka Vimāna, and this is hardly an appropriate occasion for a romantic exchange, but Kālidāsa is not deterred by this minor detail! A heavenly breeze laden with the fragrance of Airavata and cooled by the waves of the Gaṅgā sips the sweat raised on Sītā’s face by the midday (heat). And when she puts her hand out of the window of the Vimāna, Rāma says it seems like the cloud is offering her a circlet of lightening (vidyutvalaya) as a bracelet (13.20-21).

As they progress over land, Rāma confesses how bereft he was after her abduction. An aspect completely ignored by Vālmīki on this journey, his intent being reconnecting with everyone who had helped Rāma during exile, administrative issues like sending Haunumān ahead to inform Bharata, and such mundane but important matters like providing food for the monkeys. Kālidāsa’s Rāma meanwhile points out the Mālyavata mountain to Sītā where had shed as many tears as a cloud had shed rain. The caves of the mountain,he tells her, reverberated with the rumble of the clouds, reminding him of how she would rush into his arms, terrified by thunder (13.28). On the shores of the Pampā he points out a slender Aśoka tree, whose blossoms had reminded him of her breasts, and he had wanted to embrace them, but Lakṣmaṇa restrained him. The Sanskrit is so very beautiful and intoxicating, it would be worth learning, if only to read Kālidasa in the original.

The treatment of the reception at Ayodhyā varies quite a bit too. Vālmīki spends time on the actions and reactions of each actor, but the emotional aspect is muted. Bharata bows low to greet Rāma, who then embraces him and seats him on his lap. All of one verse is given to this reunion. Kālidāsa on the other hand stresses Rāma’s appreciation for Bharata and their brotherly love. Rāma tells Sītā that Bharata did not enjoy the wealth of the nation even though it was forced upon him by their father. That he has lived like an ascetic, as if practicing the vow of walking on a razor's edge (ugramasidhāramvratamabhyasatiiva. 13.67). That he safeguarded the kingdom in order to return it to Rāma. A rigorous compliance to primogeniture which would please Kālidāsa’s patron, no doubt. Bowing to Vasiṣṭha first as protocol required, Rāma with tears rolling down, embraces Bharata and kisses him on the forehead. Bharata and Lakṣmaṇa too hug tightly, despite the pain it causes the latter due to the wounds on his chest caused by combat with Indrajit (13.70,73).

A lot can be learned from a comparative study of texts. The poet's priorities, his intent, his milieu and his audiences. Kālidāsa’s rendition is ornamental rather than didactic, without compromising on bhakti. His stress on human emotion makes his presentation extremely moving. The two texts compared come from within Hindu orthodoxy. Yet separated by centuries, are remarkably different. Novelist Deepika Ahlawat points out "Subtle differences in the treatment of romantic love in Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa and Rāmcaritmānas might be a reflection of changing social mores. The epics shine through the prism of the ages, each time giving a different effect."*

Imagine then the impact of factors like culture, religion, geography, and language. There is Jaina version, a Sikh version, a Bhil version, and Buddhist one, each varying elements of the story to suit their audience.For instance in the Jaina version, Lakṣmaṇa kills Rāvaṇa, because the ideal hero cannot possibly kill.

Through the ages, the Rāmāyaṇa has been written in every important Indian language, reflecting the age, culture and preferences of that linguistic community. In the Bengali Krittibasa version, before battle with Rāvaṇa, Rāma propitiates the goddess Durgā with 99 lotuses and when he can't find the 100th, he resolves to offer one of his eyes to her. Sound familiar? Other language variants include the very important Kamban Rāmāyaṇa in Tamil, Kandali in Assamese, Ramakien in Thai each with their own sensitivities.There is a Cambodian Rāmāyaṇa, a Filipino one, Malaysian Burmese, Tibetan and even a Chinese version. The Muslim Mappila community in northern Malabar have their own Rāmāyaṇa. To explore this idea further AK Ramanujan's one time controversial but highly informative essay is worth reading, whether or not you agree with him.

Further reading:

Kalidasa’s Raghuvaṃśa, trans. KM Joglekar.

Goldman, R, trans, Ramayana.

Ramanujan, AK, 300 Ramayanas.

Critical edition of Rāmāyaṇa (Sanskrit) at Sanskrit

*You can follow Deepika Ahlawat, author of Maya's Revenge on Twitter @ahlade.

Source: dailyodailyo

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From Dadri lynching to storming of Kerala House


NEW DELHI, October 30, 2015 | Updated: October 30, 2015 04:03 IST

Smita Gupta

the hindu 
The anger was seen on the social media and in citizens across the country organising well-publicised “beef parties” to protest at the use of violence by Hindutva groups to enforce food restrictions.

The beef issue has only helped liberal Hindus to break their silence

The cow protection debate revived by sangh parivar activists after the Narendra Modi government came to power is no longer centred round the question of respecting religious taboos: the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq a month ago in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri village for allegedly storing and consuming beef shifted the thrust of the discussion to whether personal freedoms – the right to choose one’s diet, clothes, beliefs, and life partners – was under threat.

Next came the storming of Kerala House in Lutyens’ Delhi earlier this week by the Hindu Sena for serving beef to its customers, following which the Delhi police, with unusual alacrity, responded to the Sena’s call, giving the issue yet another twist — that of violation of federal freedom.

As long as the Bharatiya Janata Party and the sangh parivar restricted themselves to advocating a ban on cow slaughter, virtually no political party challenged it, largely because it had support among a section of Hindus, and is there in the Directive Principles — though not in the Fundamental Rights — of the Constitution.

Indeed, other political parties either remained silent on the subject — as when the BJP-Shiv Sena government earlier this year expanded its cow protection law to include all bovines — or supported it. The Congress, for instance, has been at pains to stress that most of the laws banning cow slaughter in the country — enacted in at least 24 States — was done on its watch. The Congress’ Digvijaya Singh even said his party would cooperate with the government if it wished to enact a Central law on the subject.

But with the BJP government failing to reassure citizens that it has no plans to enforce dietary restrictions, it has entered treacherous terrain.

People have read this silence as an effort to limit their freedom of choice even as State governments see the Kerala House episode as an infringement of federal principles: witness the prompt expressions of solidarity to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy from the principal opposition in the State, the Left Democratic Front, as well as from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The anger was seen on the social media and in citizens across the country organising well-publicised “beef parties” to protest at the use of violence by Hindutva groups to enforce food restrictions. In Bihar, barring hardcore BJP supporters, a cross-section of Hindus told this correspondent that no one had the right to decide what citizens ate.

The Kerala House episode saw Mr. Chandy describing the police raid “as a challenge to the federal system of the country,” and throwing out a challenge to the Modi government: “As long as buffalo meat is not banned in Delhi, Kerala House will continue to serve beef at its canteen,” he said. He also threatened to initiate legal action against the Delhi police unless they acknowledged their mistake.

On Thursday, belatedly, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh told India Today that he was willing to express his regret to Mr. Chandy and would meet him after his return from Bihar. Mr. Singh also said he had told the Delhi police “to be careful while acting on such complaints in future.”

The BJP and the Hindutva groups have clearly failed to read the sentiments of the people of this country: if they had believed that whipping up the beef issue would help polarise society along religious lines, it has only helped liberal Hindus to break their silence as can be seen in the protest by writers, academics, scientists, filmmakers. Freedom of choice is after all critical for citizens of a democracy; just as infringement of the rights of the States goes against the spirit of cooperative federalism.

Source: thehindu

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

In letter to PM, President, Admiral Ramdas alleges RSS pushing ‘Hindu Rashtra’ agenda

Ramdas, who was the chief of naval staff between 1990-93, accused the country’s leadership of playing with fire.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: October 26, 2015 6:27 am

Ramdas, who was the chief of naval staff between 1990-93, accused the country’s leadership of playing with fire.

In an open letter to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Navy chief Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas alleged that the “RSS and their network” were leading a “systematic and well orchestrated attempt to impose a majoritarian single-point agenda of creating a Hindu Rashtra in India”. Admiral Ramdas was also the former internal Lokpal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Stressing that the Hinduism he “knew” was “not filled with the kind of violence and intolerance represented by the current brand of “Hindutva” that was “fanning the flames of division and fear across the country”, he said that series of attacks on “minorities and Dalits” had forced him to hang his head in “shame”.

Ramdas, who was the chief of naval staff between 1990-93, accused the country’s leadership of playing with fire.

In his three-page letter, Ramdas wrote that it was “most shocking” to see no condemnation of such activities by those at the helm of affairs. He said that the “co-ordinated response of those in government seems to be to downplay the attacks – by terming them ‘sad’ and ‘unfortunate’.”

Later, speaking to The Indian Express, Ramdas said that he had no hope that the country’s top leadership will respond to his letter. “I have done my job by pointing out that the fabric of Indian Constitution is in danger.”

Source: indianexpress

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Boutique Liberal Activism: Has our freedom of expression really been suppressed?

Tuesday, 20 October 2015 - 9:06am IST | Agency: dna webdesk

Vivek Agnihotri

When the myth of secularism failed, freedom of expression became the new moral parameter. Intolerance is the new fad.

Sudhir Shetty dna

“You love it when I have problems. You love it because then you can be the good one…”, says Jennifer Lawrence’s character in the highly acclaimed film, Silver Linings Playbook.

It’s a game people play. More, if you happen to be an Indian Liberal.

Like everyone else, I was also born liberal. I played with every child, responded to every idea, and in my imagination, my world wasn’t divided between Hindu, Muslim, Christian etc. It wasn’t divided between rich and poor. There was no discrimination, no hatred. I loved women and men equally. For me, this world was one. Full of people who loved me, and whom I loved. Then who created these fragments in my mind? As I grew, at every step, my world kept shrinking. At every step, I was reminded of my unique identity in terms of my nationality, colour, caste and regionality. While in Bhopal, as a child of a powerful Government officer, I was an elite. Then I did some anti-establishment plays and local newspapers introduced me as a young leftist. When I went to study in Delhi, I became a vernacular, Hindi speaking, small town, middle-class, outsider. While studying in the US, I was a third world, brown Indian. Back in India, in advertising, I was an elite capitalist. When I joined the world of entertainment, I became a progressive creative person. When I joined Anna’s movement, I was a liberal, intellectual voice of Bollywood. Last year, when I openly supported Modi for PM, I became a right-wing bhakt. Recently, I questioned provocative ‘beefy’ statements of some, and now I have become a Sanghi, a Hindu. Hindus see me as upper caste Brahmin.  My family thinks I am not the same upper caste Brahmin as my children eat beef (not cow meat). In the film industry, I am either a commercial filmmaker or an indie filmmaker but never a pure filmmaker. I always feel fragmented and divided. This is true for everyone. Despite this fragmentation, discrimination and prejudices, I live freely, happily and in harmony with the other fragments of our society. We tolerate each other, effortlessly. Why are then some people feeling ‘creeping intolerance’ in our society?

The other day I was invited to India’s loudest news channel and the famous anchor asked for my stand on FTII issue. I said I am against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan and also against student’s manhandling of the Director. I was told ‘No, you have to take one stand as I have to seat you either on my left or on my right.” In the school of Indian liberalism, you have to be pitted against someone. In the Indian Boutique of Liberalism, you don’t get to express your opinion until it’s in black and white. Conflict, contradiction and chaos are the tools to submerge any voice of reason. You have to be either here or there. You have to be in constant conflict. If you happen to be living in harmony, you lose your utility to them. You have to have a problem, for them to love you. You just can’t be against the lynching of a Muslim and in favour of cow-slaughter at the same time. Either you tweet about Muslim victims or Hindu victims. But never about both in a single tweet. We are dividing our worlds in 140 characters. Ghettoism of thoughts has replaced ‘global ideas’.  Branded, boutique activism has become the character of our intellectual society. When the myth of secularism failed, freedom of expression became the new moral parameter. Intolerance is the new fad.

Is our Freedom of Expression really suppressed? If yes, how come people are freely expressing it? I remember the times when plain clothed CID officers followed anyone who was anti-Indira. Are we really intolerant? How come we have so many political parties ruling so many different states? This means there is political tolerance. In industry we have equal opportunities for all kinds of enterprise. Malls exist in the midst of local bazaars and street vendors. Sikhs have shops in the heart of Srinagar. Biharis have farms in Punjab. Which means there is no financial intolerance. In administration, education and health we never question the religion or political alignment of the practitioner. If people can openly criticise the Prime Minister, ridicule religious leaders, question social taboos, debate issues ranging from FTII to bar dancers, return Akademi awards, make fun of regional leaders, it proves that there is no media or FoE intolerance. Close your eyes and visualise Indian map. Try to visualise each and every town, village and hamlet, focusing on how people live there? Are they at conflict? Are they killing each other? Are people eating what they wish? Are they wearing what they wish to wear? Do Hindus, Muslims, Christians and other minorities live, work, socialise together? We enjoy kavi sammelans and mushairas with same enthusiasm. We hum our geet and our ghazals with same joy. All young lovers fall back on Urdu shayari to express their love. Bollywood music will lose its sheen without Urdu lyrics. In movies, don’t we cry and laugh together? Generally speaking, people live in harmony and in a certain social order. Supreme Court opening at midnight to reconsider Yakub Memon’s death penalty on one side and some people celebrating Godse’s anniversary on the other side. It indicates that there is extreme tolerance for polarised cultural and religious sensibilities. Writers are free to write on any subject, take, and then return their awards as a protest. In art, in literature, in films and in almost all creative fields there is tremendous tolerance for different ideas and creations. We don’t buy a pot on the basis of the colour of its potter. Is this fear of intolerance built on real threat or perceived threat?  Does this exist in flesh or is it just a ghost?

Who is dividing our society? Who is communalising issues? When a Dadri happens why do TV channels invite Owaisi and Sadhvi Prachi? What has Owaisi’s relevance to this theme when he has no locus standi in the politics of UP? How is Sadhvi Prachi relevant to cow-slaughter? Is Sakshi Maharaj a spokesperson for Hindu aspirations? Is he the sole BJP MP to comment on every social issue? Why aren’t sane, rational voices heard anymore? Why haven’t I heard a ‘cow slaughter laws’ expert enlightening us on ‘Cowism’? I’ll tell you why. If you invite sane voices of reason, the game of boutique activism stands exposed. Boutique Liberal Activism feeds on misery of others. Schadenfreude is the oxygen of their business. That’s why they show only the miserable side of our society. Have you noticed that the evolved, enlightened and reasonable voice of India is absolutely absent from national discourse? Now, you decide, who divides.

Our society is divided into ‘overclass’ (as described by Michale Find) and ‘underclass’. Overclass has systematically siphoned off the national wealth leaving underclass to fight for two square meals. They either inherited or, in collusion with the corrupt regimes, appointed themselves to the positions of power and influence. With strong control over information, they kept underclass in the dark. Their word was the final word. The biggest trick the overclass played on underclass is keeping the hope alive that only they can get them out of this abject poverty. That we have problems and they have the solution. This is the same trick godmen and Satan play on us. The same trick Indian overclass played on us. This disproportionate overclass with social, economic and political clout has constantly shown disdain and contempt for the traditional social values and the underclass is now questioning their motives. If different ideologies, traditions and cultures co-exist and democracy finds popular favour, it’s not due to this narrow but influential elite. It’s due to the tolerance level of the underclass. With level playing field in social media, their game is exposed.

Two phenomenon disturbed this status quo. One, the advent of social media, and second, the rise of Narendra Modi. With the easy access to social and digital media, underclass started questioning the authenticity of information provided by the overclass. Suddenly, their statements are scrutinised, their credibility is questioned, their sinister campaigns and lies are exposed. Their dilemma is that they if they quit social media, they lose their relevance and if they stay, they lose their credibility. This war of intolerance isn’t between HDL (Hindu Defence League) and MDL (Muslim Defence league). This isn’t between the left and the right. This is between the overclass and the underclass. The intellectual hierarchy has been demolished. It’s a sad commentary that in the world’s largest democracy, the writers’ protest has become a subject of jokes. The power hungry artists, writers, academia and media in India waste so much time making political statements to hide behind their lack of intellectual stands. Michel Houellebecq wrote 'Submission', a strong political statement, he didn’t get press coverage for returning some award. The lustre is gone from our intellectual discourse. Secularism has lost its ideological currency. Artists, writers, activists are all suspects. Media czars have lost their access to corridors of power and to people’s hearts. It’s the overclass’ space that has been taken over by the underclass. Their discomfort is with the new order where the others are also heard. Hence, the feeling of shrinking space, by the overclass. They are intolerant to this new phenomenon— the emergence of underclass. They try to devalue this new, empowered underclass by associating it with Modi and, therefore, Hindutva, and that’s a grave mistake. The universe that was full of their voice has shrunk to accommodate this new voice. This is what they call an attack on FoE and growing intolerance.

They work exactly like religion. Most of the religious books are based on fear. If you do this, that will happen. Nobody knows what ‘this’ or ‘that’ is. Social justice, if it has to come, will come only from a free and fair market. Why didn’t our liberals tell us this simple truth? When agendas, vote banks and self-delusion take over, reasoning and sympathy are needed to keep up a common conversation. Without it, there is aggression, deafness, and an obsession with purification; hence the divisive politics of Boutique Liberalism.  Boutique Liberalism is an Indian tragedy and a very damaging detour into the quicksand of communalism. Indian Liberalism has come to mean the colour opposite of saffron. That’s their failure. In a desperate attempt, their new mantra is -“We don’t care if you are a gay, we want to know whether you are a liberal or a Sanghi gay?”

Stupid ideas thrive on stupid people.  If we let stupid ideas become central to our national debate, we are also proving ourselves to be stupid. Like excellence, stupidity is also habit forming. Who is stupid and dumb? The newsmen who sell rubbish as news or the audience who believe in rubbish as news? They will keep pointing at our problems. They will love us only when we have problems. This illusion needs to be destroyed before it sucks us in. We have that power. The power to ignore the stupid.

Vivek Agnihotri is a filmmaker, writer and motivational speaker. He tweets at @vivekagnihotri

Source: dnaindia

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rising intolerance: What is at stake is the very soul of India

What most Indians who voted for the BJP don’t realise (or accept) is that they were duped by Prime Minister Modi.

Published:October 20, 2015 1:53 pm

Why people tolerate the Sangh’s divisive agenda is because constitutional principles (which define the idea of India) are not deeply embedded in the “collective consciousness” of India.

By Pushparaj Deshpande

To much public consternation, Haryana CM Manohar Khattar recently asserted that “Muslims can continue to live in India, but they will have to give up eating beef”. He contended that because cow slaughter hurts the sentiments of Hindus, Muslims and Christians must learn to live without it. In defending Khattar’s views, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj also justified the assault on J&K legislator Sheik Abdul Rashid as a “natural reaction” to his beef party. He went so far as to advocate the death penalty for cow slaughter. In what must have caused considerable heartburn to its core constituency, Venkaiah Naidu has sought to distance the BJP from Khattar’s views arguing that “it is not correct to link eating habits to religion”, and that eating was a personal choice. Meanwhile, BJP’s chief Amit Shah summoned several BJP leaders to reprimand them for their public comments.

A vast majority of Indians voted in the BJP because it gave them hope in its promise of development and freedom from corruption. It promised to take India to soaring heights, so it could march shoulder to shoulder with the superpowers of the day. It is these very supporters who are increasingly feeling disappointed at the numerous crises that engulf India today. To some, all of it is merely circumstantial, to others the responsibility lies solely with “fringe elements”. What unites them is disbelief in their beloved Prime Minister’s complicity in any of it. To them, it’s just a Congress/pseudo-sickular/leftist/intellectual/anti-national/anti-Hindu conspiracy to undermine PM Modi and the visionary development path that he has laid down for India. Is this really the case? Does the BJP and PM Modi have nothing to these so called “fringe elements”? Are these incidents just unnecessary impediments to their development agenda for India?

In trying to understand this, one has to contextualise the BJP’s foundational roots. The BJP draws inspiration from the likes of MS Golwakar, who contentiously argued (“We: Our Nationhood Defined”) that “foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt… Hindu culture and language… must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e. of the Hindu nation, and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race; or may stay in the country… claiming nothing, deserving no privileges… not even citizen’s rights”. These views were echoed by VD Savarkar who vehemently endorsed (“Essentials of Hindutva”) a “nation… united… by the bonds of a common blood”, which is the only thing that’ll makes them a “race-jati”. Their arguments are remarkably similar to Wilhelm Stuckart’s (one of the most prominent Nazi legal theorists, who co-authored the Nuremberg laws) who in “Commentary on Racial Legislation”, provided the basis for the racial discrimination, and eventually persecution of Jews.

Various BJP and RSS leaders have consequently blindly endorsed these inherently divisive ideologies, and the NDA government has purposefully spearheaded contentious policies on them. Consider the beef ban which seeks to primarily criminalise the food habits of Muslims and Scheduled Castes. The penultimate reason for this ban has been socio-religious, something Ambedkar debunked masterfully (see “Untouchability, the Dead Cow and the Brahmin”). If cow slaughter does have to be banned because it affects the sentiments of a community (which is what Khattar argued), why not extend the same logic to pork (which is anathema in Islam) or all meat, indeed all root vegetables (which are prohibited in Jainism)? Given that almost all animals are vehicles of some god or goddess in Hinduism, why does the BJP not ban meat altogether?

Consider also Mohan Bhagwat’s views on reimagining affirmative action (contrary to popular perception, the government is well aware that SC/STs are deliberately excluded from both the public and private sectors in India precisely because of their castes). Given the NDA sees itself as ultimately accountable to the RSS (not to the people), it is safe to assume that they’ve apprised the Sangh of this. Bhagwat’s views are made inspite of this knowledge, and are therefore reflective of the inherent casteism in the Sangh Parivar/BJP. Similarly, consider the Minister of Culture Mahesh Sharma’s comments on the freedoms of women (their movement after dark is against Indian culture), or the NDA’s efforts to ‘cleanse’ historical, and cultural institutions to bring them in sync with a Hinduised vision of India. In fact, the drastic cuts the NDA has made in welfare expenditure are also partly motivated by its ideological imperatives.

How is it that the RSS and its agents (who first effected its agenda through stealth) so brazenly scuttle the Constitution? And why is it that people are so unconcerned with the waves of injustice that threaten to engulf India? Are we as a people simply indifferent to it all? Or even more worryingly, do Indians genuinely believe that what’s happening is acceptable and legitimate?

In unravelling this, one must understand that in India, there exist two sets of laws: a law of the land, and the law in the land. The law of the land is the set of secular norms and principles enshrined in the Constitution of India, which every government in India is mandated to uphold (which the NDA has been found wanting in). Resisting and opposing this supra framework exist various associations (the most prominent example being the Sangh Parivar) who religiously adhere to the law in the land (that is diagrammatically opposed to the law of the land).

Essentially, the Sangh overtly and covertly challenges not just the sovereign position of the State, but also the Constitution of India. The Sangh Parivar and the BJP have, and are consciously undermining the rights which the Constitution of India guarantees (be it freedom of religion, of speech, of expression etc.). They first did that by infiltrating the state, and now by capturing it. What most Indians who voted for the BJP don’t realise (or accept) is that they were duped by Prime Minister Modi. The BJP instrumentally sold hope and the idea of development, and now in office, it has embarked on its real project. The reason Amit Shah and Venkaiah Naidu are scrambling to be seen to pull up the most visible of these so called “fringe elements” is because they know that this will cost them electorally (the first impending jolt being Bihar).

But this doesn’t really explain why as a people, we accept their heinous assault on India. To do that, we needn’t look any further than the father of India’s Constitution, who precisely anticipated this organised resistance. Ambedkar argued that “rights are not protected by law but by the social and moral conscience of society. If social conscience is such that it is prepared to recognises the rights which law chooses to enact rights will be safe and secure. But if the fundamental rights are opposed by the community, no Law no Parliament, no judiciary can guarantee them in the real sense of the word”. And therein lies the real problem.

Why people tolerate the Sangh’s divisive agenda is because constitutional principles (which define the idea of India) are not deeply embedded in the “collective consciousness” of India. This has in turn created fertile ground for the instrumental exploitation of communal (Muzzafarnagar, Dadri, Mainpuri etc.), casteist (Dankaur, Hamirpur, Virar etc.), regional and linguistic disunities. This is partly because the Sangh has rigorously engaged with society, hoping to embed radical Hindutva norms in India’s collective consciousness. It is because of their tireless efforts that large sections of India have been socialised to orthodox norms.

In stark contrast, the numerous conscientious individuals and groups of people who oppose the RSS’ talibanised idea of India keep pinning their hopes on the state. They hope against hope that the state will leash the madness that is the RSS. However, it is not adequately recognised that the state’s ability to influence people is very limited (simply because in the Weberian imagination, it can only impose rules and guidelines). And what they also fail to realise is that this particular government doesn’t really subscribe to the constitutional idea of India at all, and that the BJP will always allow the Sangh to run amuck. It is therefore imperative for us to pay heed to Gandhi’s insistence on a bottom up socio-economic and political revolution (which will effect an organic attitudinal transformation in the hearts and minds of people). As Edmund Burke once said that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Let us pray that we find it in ourselves to do something, for what is at stake is the very soul of India.

– The author is an analyst with the Congress party. Views expressed by the author are personal.

Source: indianexpress

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Judging the Judge-maker

October 19, 2015 | Updated: October 19, 2015 01:09 IST

Sanjay Hegde

the hindu
 Till 1993, judges were appointed by the executive in consultation with the judiciary. Illustration: Deepak Harichandran

The four judgments of the majority have reasserted judicial independence, with its concomitant autonomy in appointments, as an integral part of the Constitution’s basic structure. 

A powerful two-term Chief Minister of a central Indian State was seen obsequiously bowing and scraping and loudly saying “Yes Sir, No Sir, As you please, Sir” to an innocuous High Court judge. A friend of the Chief Minister later asked him why the most powerful man in a huge State was kowtowing to someone who only a few months prior, as an undistinguished government pleader, would not have been given even an audience. The Chief Minister’s eyes twinkled as he replied to his friend, “Now, he is one of the few people who can remove me from my chair”. The friend’s eyes twinkled as well when he recollected that the Chief Minister too owed his fortune to his predecessor having to resign after a court verdict.

The story may be apocryphal, as many stories from the bar are, but it explains exactly why judicial appointments are so vital in the running of a constitutional democracy. It also explains why the executive and legislature seek to have a say in the process of selecting judges and why today’s judges zealously seek to protect their two decade-old process of immaculate conception, unassisted by other organs of the state.

Till 1993, judges were appointed by the executive in consultation with the judiciary. In good times, consultation with the judiciary went beyond seeking of opinion to attempt a consensus. However, the judicial voice was often neither dominant nor decisive. In bad times, however, governments made calls for a “committed judiciary”, attempted to court-pack and sometimes indulged in rank favouritism. The situation prompted Ram Jethmalani to famously remark, “There are two kinds of judges, those who know the law and those who know the law minister.”

Quiet revolution

It was in this backdrop, in 1993 during Narasimha Rao’s minority government, with Mandal, mandir and economic liberalisation simultaneously boiling, that a quiet declaration of judicial independence occurred. Justice J.S. Verma’s judgment in the Supreme Court Advocates on Record case, gave the Chief Justice and senior judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts the power of making almost binding recommendations, for future appointments of judges in the constitutional courts.

Whenever a vacancy arose in the brotherhood, it would be filled by someone pre-approved by the judges and the executive could only demur in the appointment if cogent grounds existed. If, despite executive demur, the judges insisted on the appointment, the executive would have to confirm it. The Indian judiciary managed to create, by constitutional interpretation, a self-appointing elite. Within that elite, the power to recommend appointments belonged to a super-elite called the collegium.

In 1998, during the Vajpayee Government, on a presidential reference, the Court defined the collegium thus: “The opinion of the Chief Justice of India ...has to be formed in consultation with a collegium of Judges. Presently, and for a long time now, that collegium consists of the two seniormost puisne Judges of the Supreme Court. ...The principal objective of the collegium is to ensure that the best available talent is brought to the Supreme Court bench.”

The judgment also went on to increase the size of the collegium by holding that “we think it is desirable that the collegium should consist of the Chief Justice of India and the four seniormost puisne Judges of the Supreme Court…” Separate Collegiums of three senior judges were provided for the appointment of High Court judges.

Unstable structure

Since the collegium comprised of the most senior amongst the judges, who all retired upon turning 65, its composition was never stable. On an average, a senior judge would normally serve in the collegium for three years or less and would head it for less than a year. Hence, securing judicial appointments through the collegium became a deadly game of musical chairs and Russian Roulette, randomly mixed. Any High Court judge, hopeful of going higher, found himself desperately seeking not to anger any possible member of the collegium. Sometimes, collegiums got stymied, when old rivalries between its members saw each other’s favourites getting vetoed. There were also times that collegium meetings became examples of bargaining within the collective, and consensus emerging from a division of the spoils. In this system, while no single politician could ensure that a candidate became a judge, it was quite likely that a single judge’s wrath could wreck a hitherto promising judicial career.

The resultant appointments by the collegium, can largely be described as middle-of-the-road, with the elimination of most outliers. Thus, brilliance often got mistaken for unsteadiness and vice versa. Seniority became an indispensable shibboleth. Equally, while a reputation for corruption was a disqualifier, lesser evils like tardiness or sloth often got glossed over. Most importantly, decisions on appointments were hugely delayed, as judges resorted to politicking.

But the collegium also ensured that judges were not beholden to any politician. A bold judgment could end up unseating the most powerful of politicians or irretrievably damaging them. Politicians of all hues yearned for the early years of strong governments with huge parliamentary majorities, where judges were sometimes seen, but rarely heard of.

Towards the end of the UPA regime, the government sought to tame judges by demolishing the collegium. It brought in a constitutional amendment to provide for the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) — an independent commission with three senior judges, two eminent outsiders and the Law Minister. The UPA’s inept parliamentary handling led to a failure of the bill. A commanding NDA victory in 2014 saw the Modi government revive the proposal and Parliament amended the Constitution brought about the 99th Amendment to provide for the NJAC. Subsequent ratification of 20 States was obtained and it seemed that the collegium was history.

Petitions were filed challenging the constitutional amendment. Going by earlier experiences of judicial standoffs, many men of law expected that a constitutional amendment, almost unanimously passed by Parliament, would be rubber-stamped by the Court. Some were hopeful of judicial creativity finding a via-media which, while upholding the amendment, limited governmental interference. When the judgment was delivered on October 15, 2015, it was a decisive blow. The Court by a 4-1 majority, struck down the 99th Amendment. Justice Kehar’s judgment concluded that the NJAC did “not provide an adequate representation, to the judicial component” and that “clauses (a) and (b) of Article 124A(1) are insufficient to preserve the primacy of the judiciary in the matter of selection and appointment of Judges” It further held that “Article 124A(1) is ultra vires the provisions of the Constitution, because of the inclusion of the Union Minister in charge of Law and Justice as an ex officio Member of the NJAC.” The clause it was held, impinged upon the principles of “independence of the judiciary”, as well as, “separation of powers”. The clause which provided for the inclusion of two “eminent persons” as Members of the NJAC was held ultra vires the provisions of the Constitution, for a variety of reasons.

The four judgments of the majority have reasserted judicial independence with its concomitant autonomy in appointments, as an integral part of the Constitution’s basic structure. No parliamentary majority can amend the Constitution to alter its basic structure and hence the 99th Amendment failed constitutional scrutiny. The court has reinstated the collegium as the clearinghouse of all judicial appointments to the constitutional courts. It has also decided to have further hearings in November to iron out wrinkles in the working of the collegium.

Justice Chellameshwar’s dissenting judgment, has, with strong logic, beautifully worded, upheld the constitutional amendment which scrapped the collegium. Like all dissents, his judgment is an appeal to the future and the powerful brooding spirit of the law. He ended his dissent quoting Macaulay’s dictum, “Reform that you may preserve.”

The Court has now opted to take the path to reform, rather than change to an altogether new road created by Parliament. It is to be hoped that the court’s choice leads not to the dreary desert sands of dead habit, but into ever widening thought and action.

(Sanjay Hedge is a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court)

Source: thehindu

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Friday, October 16, 2015

A gentle reply to the Honourable FM

When the humble dal is Rs 200 a kilo, the poor do cry Tell me, at such times, should the writer tell a lie

Written by Ramu Ramanathan | Published:October 16, 2015 9:24 am

indian express
 Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (Source: PTI photo)

Friends, Indians, countrymen, lend me your likes;
I come to defend a few writers, not to praise them.
The evil that politics does would not have lived
If not for these wretched writers who are so naive

FM Sir! He is so right –
Why should we talk about Mr D or Comrade P
When India has such a high single digit GDP
Plus everybody knows what happened to Mr K
He was shot dead, for having a tinge of red
It is the fault of the writer, the FM tells us
These writers, behaving like pest
Constantly, manufacturing protest
Being ideologically intolerant
And yet, not paying their rents
The FM, he is an honourable man;
The Culture Minister, too, is also a honourable man–
In fact all of them are very honourable
So I must not speak aloud and in public
Even if a writer is my friend, just and brave
Our national motto is: Bhayamev Jayatev
The FM says, writers are propagandists
And the FM and his boss are honourable men.
His boss hath brought many a selfie, home to Dilli
But have the RBI coffers with black money been filled?
Alas no! If a writer points this out
Then he is worse than a lout
When the humble dal is Rs 200 a kilo, the poor do cry
Tell me, at such times, should the writer tell a lie
The FM says writers lack national conscience
And the FM is a very honourable-learned lawyer.
You see everything he says, has a precedence …
Nayantra is a Nehru
Rushdie is a pagan
Devy is an academic
Amitav wrote only one book about the Delhi riots
Ghulam Nabi Khayal is an intellectual
Srinath is a secularist
Pragnya and Urmilla are feminists; also Ambedkarites
Sambhaji is worse, a Marxist-Ambedkarite
Rajeev is an extinct species, a playwright
The above have fought many an ideological battle
Against all kinds of tyrannical talk and tattle
They been whipped, they been jailed
With their verse, the mighty have been nailed
Yet the FM says they are villains;
And,​ ​he has to be right, since he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what the FM spoke
Rajeev did distribute pamphlets in the public loos
During the Emergency when he decided to do
Sambhaji still sings those people’s songs
Perhaps the FM feels, the tune is wrong
So some are labelled, green and budhi-heen
Others ain’t Right, cause they are Left
Words are classified as Kannada, Gujarati, Punjabi, Konkani
If you don’t toe the line, then you become a Pakistani

It is this which causes me to mourn for my friend: the writer
O Art! Are you being fed to brutish beasts
O FM! Just bear with me;
I reserve my right to disagree with you
No doubt, your North Block is very powerful
Beware: The people of this land are no fools

Source: indianexpress


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Religion can’t be the basis of state, Pranab tells Israel

Jerusalem, October 14, 2015 | Updated: October 14, 2015 19:38 IST

Stanly Johny

the hindu
President Pranab Mukherjee, with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, looks at pictures of Jews killed during the Holocaust in the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Modi told me India wants Israel, says Prime Minister Netanyahu in Knesset.

President Pranab Mukherjee, who’s on a historic two-day visit to Israel, on Wednesday told Israel’s political leadership that religion can’t be the basis of State.

“Violence is not a solution to any crisis. Violence achieves nothing but more violence. We in India believe in a principle of live and let live,” the President told Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union, the Israeli Leader of Opposition.

The President’s comments come at a time when violence is escalating in Jerusalem in Gaza between Palestinians and Israel. Over the last few weeks, a number of Palestinians and Israelis were killed in East Jerusalem and Gaza. On Tuesday, three Israelis were killed in two separate incidents in East Jerusalem.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday morning after receiving a ceremonial reception at the presidential palace here, President Mukherjee condemned the recent spate of violence. “We are distressed at the recent violence. India condemns all forms of terrorism. We have always advocated a peaceful resolution of all disputes,” he said.

But Mr. Mukherjee remained silent on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his address at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacked radicalism and the “enemies” who want to destroy Israel.

The local press here was critical of Mr. Mukherjee’s visit to Palestine. The Jerusalem Post ran a story Wednesday saying the Indian President remained silent on terror in his visit to Palestine.

Mr. Mukherjee, who arrived in Jerusalem on Tuesday after visiting Jordan and Palestine, called for enhanced cooperation between India and Israel in the fields of agriculture, defence and technology. This is the first time an Indian President is visiting Israel. India and Israel established full diplomatic relations only in 1992. Former Israeli President Ezer Weizman had visited India in 1997, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came to New Delhi in 2003 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.

“My state visit to Israel is taking place at a time when relations between our two governments are taking a very positive trajectory,” said Mr. Mukherjee in the Israeli Parliament. He said Israel’s technological advances could help India increase its industrial production, and create jobs in both countries.

Mr. Mukherjee had actually reasserted India’s position in Ramallah that New Delhi supported a peaceful solution of the Israeli Palestinian crisis. In Abu Dis he said the “entire political leadership of India” remained committed to the Palestinian cause.

Mr. Netanyahu, who spoke after President Mukherjee’s speech, said Israel wants peace, but before talks to be started, terror should be stopped. “Israel wants peace, I want peace. I am interested in launching negotiations immediately, without preconditions. In order for this to happen, the terror incidents will have to stop and the Palestinians will have to recognise the State of Israel.”

The Israeli Prime Minister also said that he speaks to ‘My dear friend (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi quite often. When we met once, he told me ‘India wants Israel” and that “I see a paragon of fraternity between our two countries”.

Mr. Netanyahu and the Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein have recalled that both India and Israel are victims of “Islamist terrorism”, and urged for standing together against extremism.

President Mukherjee will meet Prime Minister Netanyahu on Thursday before wrapping up his six-day tri-nation tour.

Source: thehindu

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Indigenous production: Self-reliance, the best defence

To ensure the all round success of ‘Make in India’, the Centre has to actively support the creation of a private defence industrial base.

Written by Sushant Singh | Updated: October 13, 2015 8:03 am

Defence manufacturing has been identified as a priority sector in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship ‘Make in India’ scheme. While the nomenclature has come into vogue last year, indigenous defence manufacturing has been a rather unsuccessful quest for decades.

Notwithstanding some initial steps by the NDA government — such as increasing the FDI limit to 49 per cent — a lack of clarity on policies from the defence ministry has constrained the progress on ‘Make in India’. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar had promised the revised Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) by April but it is now expected to be released in December. A new DPP will be the starting point for any meaningful action on ‘Make in India’ in defence.

In the last five years, India has been the world’s top arms importer with a 15 per cent global share of imports. Nearly 50 per cent of the capital acquisition budget is spent on imports. This excludes many “indigenous” items assembled by Ordnance Factories (OFs) and Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs) where a high percentage of raw materials and sub-systems are imported.

In 1995, a committee under APJ Abdul Kalam, the then scientific advisor to the defence minister, had recommended that India should improve its indigenisation content from 30 per cent to 70 per cent by 2005. Although no official data exists, the self-reliance in defence production is still estimated to be less than 35 per cent.

About 90 per cent of domestic defence manufacturing is currently done in the public sector, by the 9 DPSUs and 39 OFs. Since 2001, when private participation was allowed in defence sector, 222 letters of intents and industrial licences have been issued to around 150 firms. Of these, only 46 firms have commenced production so far.

Globally, 80 per cent of components, aggregates and assemblies of complex weapon systems and aircraft are made by MSMEs. In India, more than 6,000 MSMEs are currently supplying components and sub-assemblies to the DPSUs, OFs, DRDO and private firms. The defence manufacturing sector currently employs more than 2 lakh people in India. This size of military industrial workforce is similar to nations like the UK and France, which are the top defence manufacturers.

India allocated 1.74 per cent of its GDP towards defence spending in FY16 and is among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of military expenditure. Approximately 40 per cent of the defence budget is allocated for capital acquisitions, which mainly goes towards imports from foreign suppliers. Between 2007-08 and 2014-15, defence budget more-than-doubled from Rs 92,000 crore to Rs 2,22,370 crore, growing at an average rate of 12 per cent per annum. The capital budget also more-than-doubled from Rs 37,461 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 81,965 crore in 2014-15.

Despite the sustained expenditure over the last decade, the equipment profile of the armed forces is in an alarming state. While the desirable equipment profile, as per the defence secretary’s testimony to Parliamentary Standing Committee, early this year is 30:40:30 (30 per cent state-of-the-art, 40 per cent current and 30 per cent nearing obsolescence), experts estimate the current profile to be 15:45:40. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by the defence minister, has approved procurement of equipment for more than Rs 1,17,830 crore during the UPA-II regime. Another Rs 1,50,000 crore worth of approvals have been given by DAC under the NDA government.

A modelling of 35 selected projects cleared by DAC, along with their likely dates of induction — from 2012 to 2023 — has been done by a foreign manufacturer. It shows that defence ministry will need $40 billion for just these 35 purchases. This translates into a 7 per cent rise in capital budget in real terms. While the capital acquisition budget has risen in absolute terms in the last few years, it has hardly seen any increase in real terms.

The government policy now aims to achieve 70 per cent indigenisation in defence products by 2027. This translates into an Indian defence market of Rs 87,000 crore by 2022 and Rs 1,65,000 crore by 2027. It presents a huge opportunity to the DPSUs, foreign manufacturers, Indian private players and MSMEs. But the question is of resources. Defence production needs heavy investment over a long period, so as to bring in modern technologies with low economies of scale. Unlike other sectors, defence industry is a monopsony in which the single buyer, the government, is also the authority laying down procurement policies. This makes active government support essential for private defence manufacturers, a fact borne out by the experience of countries — the US, Israel, Brazil and France — where private defence industry has flourished.

Under ‘Make in India’, the government has to actively support the creation of a private defence industrial base. The government will have to fund research and development, provide a low-interest regime to reduce capital costs, provision specific tax benefits, assure consistent sectoral policies, place firm orders and encourage exports to achieve economies of scale.

For policies to create synergies rather than controls, it is essential that the government creates internal capacity for defence acquisition and manufacturing. While the Pentagon has 12,000 cost engineers on its rolls, the defence ministry has none. The structure and the organisation of the ministry, particularly the department of defence production, which is responsible for DPSUs and OFs, puts private sector at a disadvantage. If form has to follow function, the ministry will have to be restructured to promote private players.

Most of these suggestions form part of the deliberations of experts committee chaired by Dhirendra Singh, which submitted its report on amendments to DPP-2013 to the defence minister in August. Of the 43 recommendations made, 15 directly pertain to ‘Make in India’ while the rest concern the DPP. These recommendations on the DPP also have a direct impact on indigenous defence production. The future trajectory of Make in India in defence will be determined, to a great extent, by the action taken by the Centre on the Dhirendra Singh committee.

Source: indianexpress


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Don’t shoot the messenger

October 9, 2015


 Nayantara Sahgal. Photo: Virender Singh Negi

It is easier to be the Prime Minister of India and keep quiet than to be an author and speak your heart out.

Authors can never be winners. We have one yardstick for us, quite another for our authors. Somehow, we expect them to be the wisest, the most caring, sensitive souls on earth. Morally upright, removed from politics, selfless, accessible and illuminating. And, I dare say, shining examples of unimpeachable excellence. So when authors keep to themselves at the time of a natural calamity or a man-made one, it is concluded that they live in their Ivory Tower. The more generous commoners argue that they would say their thing through their novels or poetry – art and literature is a reflection of life, isn’t it? And when the novelists or poets do speak out at the perceived danger to our norms and values, they are still questioned; about their intention, their timing, their previous silence. Denied the right to rectify the past mistakes, if any, they are damned if they speak, damned when they don’t.

Regret seems a luxury best not allowed to our authors. Aren’t our authors the moral guardian of society? Nah! They are not always allowed to be. Looks like it is easier to be the Prime Minister of India and keep quiet when the nation is crying for a word from you than to be an author and speak your heart out.

Look at the sad case of poor Nayantara Sahgal. All these years she has written with a certain freedom, certain fearlessness. Thus when the veteran spoke out after the Dadri lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq and Modi’s studied silence, it should have surprised none. Her tone had a ring of anguish, her words did nothing to hide her sense of pain and despair at the growing threat to life and limb from the Hindutva elements.

  (Ashok Vajpeyi. Photo: The Hindu)

Even as she returned the Sahitya Akademi award that she won for her work “Rich Like Us” in 1986, she pleaded for a statement from the Prime Minister on the subject. “Justice drags its feet. The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology,” she wrote, arguing to protect the right to dissent. “India’s culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault. Rationalists who question superstition, anyone who questions any aspect of the ugly and dangerous distortion of Hinduism known as Hindutva – whether in the intellectual or artistic sphere, or whether in terms of food habits and lifestyle – are being marginalized, persecuted, or murdered.”

We, as a society, ought to have stood up and applauded her, and indeed others like Hindi luminaries like Uday Prakash and Ashok Vajpeyi and noted Urdu poet Rahman Abbas. Instead, quite the opposite happened. Playing right into the hands of the Hindutva brigade, many questioned her timing, some even read into it a pathological hatred for the ruling party. “She said not a word after the 1984 Sikh riots and accepted the Sahitya Akademi award in 1986. She did not speak out after the destruction of the Babri Masjid and the Gujarat violence,” they argued. Seems a reasonable argument from outside. Now for a minute put yourself in Sahgal’s shoes.

Would she not have been worse off not defending the right to speech, indeed, the right to life? Wasn’t she critical of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency and the excesses of the moment? True, she may not have been as vociferous in 1984 or 1992, but does that deny her the right to rectify her mistake, if any? Would not we, while analysing her works and life a few years down the line, have said that she confined herself to the life of a recluse living in Dehradun, only emerging occasionally for a book launch or a lit fest?

Would not have there been an unstated lament that she did not speak even once against the Hindutva brigade? Reminds me of the plight of Rabindranath Tagore who renounced knighthood after the Jallianwalan Bagh tragedy but many wondered what happened to the Nobel. That argument was both facetious and mischievous. Much like the present criticism of Sahgal and company.

  (Uday Prakash. Photo: PTI)

Pray, if she had not said what she did, would many of us have been as alive to the danger that faces the nation these days? And what she wrote had more meaning than just anger. “The right to dissent is an integral part of this Constitutional guarantee….A distinguished Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner, M.M. Kalburgi, and two Maharashtrians, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, both anti-superstition activists, have all been killed by gun-toting motor-cyclists. Other dissenters have been warned they are next in line. Most recently, a village blacksmith, Mohammed Akhlaq, was dragged out of his home in Bisara village outside Delhi, and brutally lynched, on the supposed suspicion that beef was cooked in his home….It is a matter of sorrow that the Sahitya Akademi remains silent. The Akademis were set up as guardians of the creative imagination, and promoters of its finest products in art and literature, music and theatre. In protest against Kalburgi’s murder, a Hindi writer, Uday Prakash, has returned his Sahitya Akademi Award. Six Kannada writers have returned their Awards to the Kannada Sahitya Parishat.

In memory of the Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty, I am returning my Sahitya Akademi Award.”

Eloquent? Yes. Did she succeed in moving our people? Yes, some of them. Others sprung to the defence of the powers-that-be. Unfortunately, the resignations and the attendant questions will not get a word from Modi. His speech, delayed and an exercise at deflection, is a stain upon silence. His face betrays no concern. It is but vain to expect him to show sensitivity towards the dead, be it Kalburgi or Akhlaq. After all isn’t he the one who equated the death of the innocent in Gujarat-2002 with a puppy coming under the wheel of the car? Death fails to move him. Moral nihilists feed him and feed off him. The authors, the poets are a breed apart, sensitive, and blessed with tender heart.

Today I am reminded of celebrated journalist Sham Lal’s words. “Time is hard on writers, particularly after the causes they fought for have been won, lost or overtaken by events,” he once wrote. In their loss lies a nation’s tragedy.

(The author is a seasoned literary critic)

Source: thehindu

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Friday, October 09, 2015

Cows are white so they're holy? Our case against buffaloes

There is no hope in this land of dark-complexioned people for the animal.

Damayanti Datta @DattaDamayanti


Satish Yadav, 32, belongs to village Latapur near Amethi in Uttar Pradesh. While he works as a gardener in Delhi, his parents still live in the village, looking after their ancestral five bigha land, two cows, two bulls and two buffaloes. What do they call their bovine pets? Yadav says, "Eh?" I can swear by all the Sarat Chandra novels I've read that villagers always name their cows (typically, Shyamoli, in Bengal villages). But Yadav clearly says, "They have no names."

Something is not adding up. "Your family must be very fond of the cows?" Yadav smiles and starts talking about the buffaloes: how they close their eyes when they cross roads ("You have to stop. For, they won't"), how they love to bathe in the river ("We used to ride them as boys in the water"), how much they eat. And the cows? "They're ok." That's all he says. Then he goes into raptures over the thick and plentiful milk the buffaloes give twice every day ("Five-five litres"), which the family sells for Rs 30 a litre. And the cows? "Oh, they give much less. Not that thick, too. Sells for Rs 20 a litre." A buffalo these days sells for Rs 30-40,000, he adds. A cow sells for Rs 7,000, while a bull for Rs 5,000. "People are buying tractors. Bulls have no work. They loiter around happily. Cows don't give much milk. But if you have a buffalo, you don't need to worry." Clearly, Yadav has more feelings for his buffaloes than his cows. "Cows are gentle, no? Buffaloes are more aggressive. Do they fight?" Why should they fight? Yadav sounds surprised. "They have always lived together."

Yadav must be one in a million. While the whole country is singing paeans to the cow, neighbours are bumping off people they have always known on mere suspicion that they may have eaten beef, state after state is bringing in tough laws against cow slaughter - here is this man who is unabashedly favouring his buffaloes over his cows. Doesn't he know that the cow is sacred - gau-mata, kamadhenu - while the buffalo is not? The god of death, Yama, rides a buffalo. Devi Durga kills a buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasur.

Yadav falls silent when I remind him that there are 24 states in the country, where you can't kill a cow without permission (if at all) but you can slaughter buffaloes, eat their flesh and turn their hide into bags. Even in Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal, Rajasthan and Gujarat - where killing a cow (genus) invites greater punishment than, say, drunk driving, molestation, causing grievous hurt or evading income tax, according to the Indian Penal Code - you can kill a buffalo without blinking an eyelid.

Poor Yadav. Or is it poor buffalo? In this land of dark-complexioned people, where white skin is aspired for and venerated as sattva guna (divine virtue), this dark, uncute beast with lumbering gait has no hopes - even if it nurtures more Indian children every day with milk than its scrawny white barn-mate, the cow.

Source: dailyo

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Sunday, October 04, 2015

శ్రీ కౌముది అక్టోబర్ 2015

Dadri’s dire warning: If Modi fails to give India change, it’s because of enemies within his house

Akhlaq’s death was foretold from the moment Bharatiya Janata Party chief ministers started banning meat on the excuse of festivals during which it has never been banned before.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: October 4, 2015 7:41 am

The Indian Express
Akhlaq’s daughter and her cousin, in Bisara village Wednesday. Akhlaq was killed when a mob attacked his house following rumours that he and his family stored and ate beef. His son, severely injured in the attack, is in hospital. (Express Photo by: Prem Nath Pandey)

This week I would have written about the Foreign Minister’s excellent speech at the United Nations, but images from Dadri got in the way. Ever since the barbaric, senseless murder of Mohammed Akhlaq, I have been haunted by those images of a family with modern, middle-class aspirations destroyed by the savagery that lies so close to the surface of Indian modernity. Mohammed Akhlaq’s brutal murder gives the Prime Minister a chance to confront the reality that, if he fails to give India change, development and prosperity, it will be because of enemies inside his own house.

Akhlaq’s death was foretold from the moment Bharatiya Janata Party chief ministers started banning meat on the excuse of festivals during which it has never been banned before. They did this without concern for the jobs that would be lost and without noticing that Muslims would become an automatic target. Where better for this to be demonstrated than in a Hindu village with less Muslim families than you can count on the fingers of one hand? But Akhlaq’s cowardly murder raises other more serious questions.

When he was in Silicon Valley, the Prime Minister talked proudly about his plans to use digital technology to transform rural India. What use is this kind of talk when a murderous mob can gather in a village on the edge of Delhi without the police being able to do anything? The men who planned the murder of Akhlaq, and the attempted murder of his son Danish, used WhatsApp to spread lies about cow slaughter days in advance, but the police did not notice. What use is digital technology if it cannot improve basic policing? What use are cellphones in villages if the temple priest who made the announcement that caused Akhlaq’s death could not use it to alert the nearest police station? Even if the Prime Minister succeeds in spreading the use of digital technology to improve policing and governance, what is he going to do about the primitive mindset of members of his own party?

What will he do with the ex-MLA who said that if the meat found in Akhlaq’s fridge was beef, then the violence was justified? What will he do with BJP spokesmen who justified the murder in other ways? Some said that farmers in the area were relying on their cattle to survive because of the drought and in the village of Bisara a calf had disappeared. Others, including the local MP, dismissed the murder as an ‘accident’ and the result of a ‘misunderstanding’.

It was a shameful display of primitive, provincial thinking, and Mr Modi would do well to notice that, along with the ‘ghar wapasi’ nonsense that went on through his entire first year in office, it serves to distract from the reasons why he became prime minister. The vote was for change and development and not Hindutva. Anyone who tells him otherwise is lying. And yet he has done nothing to stop the theft of his mandate by people who would not have been ministers or members of Parliament if his slogan of ‘parivartan’ and ‘vikas’ had not found such resonance.

Akhlaq’s murder reminds us of how superficial India’s modernity is. The men who killed him and tried to kill his son would have all had cellphones in their pockets and colour television sets in their homes. Some may even have had access to computers and the Internet, and still all it took was a rumour for them to turn into savages. It is only savages who can turn so quickly into a killer mob. And in recent months a very ugly atmosphere has been created across the country by BJP chief ministers and Modi’s own ministers, and he has done nothing to stop them. Nor has he made the smallest effort to call a halt to the misguided ‘ghar wapasi’ (homecoming) campaign launched by his former comrades in the RSS. If the RSS is truly interested in serving India, and if they are true believers in the Sanatan Dharma, then they must concentrate their activities on more useful things like cleaning the Ganga and helping the Swachh Bharat campaign. Ghar wapasi is the antithesis of the idea of the Sanatan Dharma.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister must realise that the investors he woos on his travels in foreign lands halt in their tracks every time they see signs that beneath its new highways and shining malls, India remains a primitive country. Akhlaq was stoned to death in a village less than 50 kilometres away from Delhi and his young son, if he lives, could live with serious head injuries. Do we require more proof that we are going to need more than digital technology to make India into a country that truly belongs in the 21st century, instead of in some hideous, primordial time warp?

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter: @ tavleen_singh

Source: indianexpress

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