31 October 2014

Force behind MIM (Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen)

Zeeshan Shaikh

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) won just two seats in the Maharashtra assembly election, but even this limited success has attracted massive media attention. The reaction to the MIM’s success has been mostly alarmist: many fear that the Hyderabad-based party’s rise in Maharashtra could cause a tear in our social fabric.
This concern is genuine, considering the vitriolic speeches its leader, Akbaruddin Owaisi, made during the campaign. However, the MIM did not grow in a vacuum. It fed off the growing feeling of political disempowerment among Muslims and the realisation that it was increasingly becoming difficult for a Muslim candidate to get support outside his community.
This was not always the case. Till 1985, Muslim politicians were getting elected from rural and mixed population constituencies, including Shrivardhan, Ratnagairi, Amalner, Ramtek, Kamptee, Jalna, Khed, Basmath, Akole, Akkalkot, Parbhani, Beed, Omerga, Partur, Pathri and, once, even Bhavani Peth in Pune. Since 1990, the growing communal schism has meant that a Muslim candidate is assured of a win only when he stands from a Muslim-dominated constituency. Even this time, eight of the nine Muslim MLAs have been elected from Muslim-dominated constituencies. The exception is the NCP’s Hasan Mushrif, who won Kagal, a constituency in western Maharashtra.
A look at the past three assembly elections indicate that more than half the Muslim MLAs have been elected from Mumbai constituencies, though Mumbai Muslims constitute only 21 per cent of the total Muslim population of Maharashtra. Votes polled by Muslim candidates have also been steadily falling since 1990. For instance, the number of votes polled by Muslim candidates came down from 18.7 lakh in 2004 to 17.5 lakh in 2009, though the size of the electoral group increased by 8.3 per cent. In 2009, the average votes polled by a non-Muslim candidate was 13,766, while a Muslim candidate attracted only 4,453 votes. Many parties point to these figures as the reason why they refuse tickets to Muslim candidates. Many politicians claim that putting up a Muslim candidate in a mixed population area is a losing proposition. The fear that a Muslim candidate would polarise the electorate and lead to the consolidation of non-Muslim votes meant that, despite having a substantial presence in 40 assembly constituencies in the state, only 45 Muslim candidates were put up by the five main political parties in the 2014 election. In many cases, Muslim candidates were pitted against each other.
However, the entry of the MIM — 24 candidates, including four Dalits — into the electoral fray has changed the picture. It contested constituencies in Aurangabad, Nanded and Solapur, which has a substantial number of Muslim voters. Interestingly, mainstream parties had shied away from fielding Muslim candidates in these constituencies despite local demand, fearing it could lead to consolidation of non-Muslim votes. Take the case of Aurangabad, which had a Muslim MLA till 1985. After the Shiv Sena wrested the seat from the Congress following a communally charged campaign in 1990, mainstream political parties refused to field a Muslim there. The MIM broke the unspoken consensus and put up a Muslim candidate, who won. The MIM presence has been reflected in the vote share as well. For the first time in 15 years, the number of votes received by Muslim candidates across the state has risen. While the sporadic vitriol that the MIM spews must be criticised, we also need to be critical of political parties and voters who have, in past elections, chosen to overlook the claims of certain candidates only because they belonged to a particular faith.

(The Indian Express, 31 October 2014)

30 October 2014

How Muslim, Hindu Trilokpuri Residents are Joining Hands to End Communal Tension

Tarique Anwar

New Delhi: The violence in Trilokpuri was never a Hindu-Muslim fight; it was fuelled by anti-social elements from both sides. Let’s not fall prey to malicious rumour-mongering and maintain peace’.
The locals of the area have finally taken the matter into their hands and have been busy conveying this message to people of both communities.
Thanks to the effort of the 50-member Aman Committee, normalcy is limping back to East Delhi’s Trilokpuri, which has been tense since Diwali night when clashes broke out between Hindu and Muslims over a petty issue, leaving 70, including 56 policemen, injured.
After repeated attempts of the volunteers of the committee, both sides finally agreed on Wednesday that the controversial Mata ki Chowki would be removed from Block 20 on Friday (October 31) after holding a jagran (an overnight worship of Goddess Durga by singing bhajans and reciting aartis). “It has been decided that the temporary Mata ki Chowkiwill be removed from Block 20 on Friday after a jagran, which will be facilitated by Muslims who will serve their Hindu brothers water, tea, coffee, snacks and take care of other necessities,” Akhtar Hussain, one of the volunteers of the peace committee, toldFirstpost.
This will not be a one-sided affair. Hindus too will ensure safe and peaceful conclusion of Yaum-e-Ashura (the 10th day of Muharram), which will be observed on 4 November. “The Hindus have also ensured us that they will set up stalls of water and other soft drinks for Muslims who take out a religious procession to mark the 10th day of Muharram,” he said with a huge smile of relief on his face.
Creating trust deficit between the two communities is easy, but bridging the gap is extremely difficult, says Chinnadurai Adhikesavan, a senior lawyer at the Delhi High Court and one of the members of the peace committee. “We are visiting each block and urging people to maintain peace. We are requesting them to act wisely and not to believe rumours. We are in touch with people at the ground level and are trying to create a bridge between cops and panicked residents," he said.
Another volunteer, Ravi Saxena said, “We do patrolling at night in all blocks along with the police. As we are locals, we identify local trouble makers and help the police to nab them. We are holding regular meetings with the representatives of both communities and it is proving crucial in restore peace here.”
The team took with it the prayer leader of the mosque in Block 20, where the first scuffle took place, as well as a priest of a nearby temple and held a peace march in the block to make people understand that they can still co-exist.
“The sole aim to involve the priest and prayer leader in the peace march was to give out the message that this was not a Hindu-Muslim fight. It was fuelled by anti-social elements from both communities. We urged people with folded hands to stay away violence,” said Ram Chandra Tilak.
Although holding peace marches and working for restoration of peace in disturbed area sound good,  it is extremely challenging and dangerous work because we become the targets of those who get arrested on our tip-off, says Riyazuddin Saifi, another committee member and resident of the area.
“We deployed our women volunteers in Block 28 to keep the youth from leaving houses during police crackdown. We also faced stone pelting while identifying residents from stone throwers who had come from outside. The situation started slipping out of hand when the rioters were joined by local residents who were raising religious slogans to encourage them. The police managed to arrest many accused with our help, therefore, we are on the radar of many goons,” he said.
Because of the complete shutdown in the area, people are running short of vegetables, ration, milk, cooking gas and medicines. “We along with police officials have started rushing in with daily use items and medical aids so that communal atmosphere douse down. We are also rushing the injured to hospitals,”says Ravi Saxena.
The committee comprises government servants, social workers, advocates and doctors. “The group has people with different nature of jobs but these days, we have left all other engagements to bring back normalcy in our area,” says Reshma Saifi, a woman volunteer of the peace committee.
Dr Pervez Alam, president of the committee, is confident that peace will prevail in the area in a couple of days.
The police also acknowledge the importance of the peace committee. “They (volunteers of the Aman Committee) are of great help to us. The tension has subsided to a great extent because of their tireless effort. We are working with them. Had there not been such people in the committee, we would have struggled a lot to bring the area back on track,” Joint Commissioner of Police Sanjay Beniwal told Firstpost.
Asked about the arrests, he said, “So far, we have nabbed 67 people in connection with the violence. All the arrests have been made on the basis of photographs and video clippings of the clashes available with us. A total of 14 people have been detained on charges of making hoax calls to the police.”
One of the five “prime accused” was arrested on Monday night. The search for the other four is still on, he said.
The situation is completely under control and there has been no report of fresh violence since Sunday, said Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Deepak Mishra.
“Prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC (prohibiting unlawful assembly of people) are still in force. We have divided the entire Trilokpuri area into 36 blocks. More than 1,000 policemen from Delhi Police, Rapid Action Force and Central Reserve Police Force along with over 30 police vans, water cannons and riot control vehicles have been deployed. All the main exit and entry points have been sealed by the police,” he added.

(www.firstpost.com, 30 October 2014)

29 October 2014

Patel Would not have Endorsed Modi

Image result for rajmohan gandhi

Rajmohan Gandhi

The Hindu, 4 November 2013

While Sardar Patel grew under Mahatma Gandhi, Modi was groomed by RSS, says Rajmohan Gandhi

Amid a slugfest between Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Congress over Sardar Patel, a noted biographer of Patel has said the country’s first home minister would not have recognised Mr. Modi as his ideological heir and been very “pained” with his behaviour towards Muslims.

Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi who has written a biography of the country’s first home minister, said Patel certainly would not have felt at the time of 2002 riots in Gujarat, that Mr. Modi fulfilled his ‘rajdharma’, a phrase used by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to chide Modi.

“I think it is quite obvious that he (Patel) would have been very disappointed, very pained and saddened not only as an Indian statesman but also as coming from Gujarat, that this should not have happened in Gujarat and the government of the time was not able to prevent it,” he said.

Talking to Karan Thapar in CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate, Mr. Gandhi said that claims by BJP supporters or Mr. Modi himself to project him as Patel’s heir misunderstands and misrepresents Patel.

“If Modi can grow into that kind of image that would be wonderful, but by two reasons he has fallen short. After all Patel grew as a disciple under the umbrella of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. Modi had his career under the umbrella of RSS and that makes a difference.

“Also Patel as an individual was always a team builder; other people were prominent in his daily life. Whether Modi is like that... I would like him to be like that,” he said.

Congress and Patel

Mr. Gandhi, however, accepted the criticism that Congress has forgotten Patel or relegated him to the background in the 63 years since his death.

He noted that Nehru was succeeded by Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and now Rahul Gandhi while none of Patel’s children inherited or benefited from his power.

Patel was proud to be a Congressman and accepted that Mahatma Gandhi’s decision to make Nehru Prime Minister was correct, Gandhi said, adding the Mahatma chose Nehru over Patel because he was older by 14 years and in poor health.

Nehru was also better known internationally, he said.

The ‘Iron man’, a popular term used for Patel, had appreciated the work of RSS during riots in 1947 but after Gandhi’s assassination, his attitude changed and he was thereafter an implacable opponent if not an enemy of the Hindutva organisation, he said.

Mr. Modi and Congress leaders have engaged in a war of words over Patel with the BJP’s PM candidate claiming that the country’s destiny would have been different had he been the first PM instead of Nehru.

Congress has hit back at him, saying he was trying to hijack Patel’s legacy as BJP lacked any icon.


Sardar Patel: Truth and Hype about a Leader

Gopalkrishna Gandhi
The Hindustan Times, 1 November 2013

The Mahatma was the most respected, Jawaharlal Nehru the most loved and Subhas Bose the most longed-for. But in terms of the iron control he exercised over the largest political apparatus in the country and the grip he had on political currents and cross-currents in virtually every province in India, the power wielded by the Patidar from Karamsad, Gujarat, had no match. No near-match, either. Not by far.
Gandhi loved Jawaharlal, trusted Prasad, admired Rajaji, esteemed Azad. But Patel, he leaned on and laughed with. Patel regarded Gandhi as his mentor, his leader.
And yet he 'owned' an equation with the Mahatma that was special. Everyone laughs differently with different people. What Gandhi and Patel planned together, worked-at together, history has recorded. What they laughed over, only they knew. And Gandhi's secretary, Mahadev Desai.
Here are two samples given by Desai in his diaries:
The year is 1932. They are all three prisoners, at Poona's Yeravada jail.
June 11, 1932.
Gandhi (in a sombre mood, contemplating death): Some day or other one must mount the shoulders of the bearers.
Patel: Bring the ship to shore first and then go where you like.
November 24, 1932.
Gandhi (on reading a hate-letter from a person who says that he, the writer, is unfortunate to be living in the same age as Gandhi): Tell me, what sort of reply should I send him?
Patel: Tell him to poison himself.
The Mahatma could not have guessed then that the man giving him this advice was the future deputy prime minister of India and the Sardar could not have known that he, as deputy prime minister and home minister, would have to answer difficult questions about the assassination of his leader.
Prime Minister Nehru and home minister Patel had different perceptions on the role of the RSS in the Gandhi assassination. But, as Rajmohan Gandhi tells us in his epic biography of Patel, Nehru wrote to Patel on February 3, 1948: "I have been greatly distressed by the persistence of whispers and rumours about you and me… We must put an end to this mischief".
Patel, addressing the Congress in the Constituent Assembly for the first time after Gandhi's departure, called Nehru "my leader". The home minister had no doubt in his mind as to who had conspired to kill Gandhi.
"It was the fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha", Patel wrote to Nehru, on February 27, 1948, "that (hatched) the conspiracy and saw it through". A ban followed.
The country's leading socialists targeted the home minister for his ministry's failure to protect Gandhi and asked him to resign. They did not know that Patel had already sent in his resignation to Nehru who had refused to countenance it.
Patel heard his critics patiently and then said he had had several arguments with the Mahatma to let police be stationed in the house he was staying in, but Gandhi had turned the idea down outright. And then Patel told his socialist critics not to "exploit the greatest misfortune and calamity of the nation for party ends".
Patel's death stunned the nation, Nehru more than anyone else. He was now all in all but all alone. The BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is reported to have alleged that Nehru did not attend Patel's funeral.
Only the ignorant will believe this. Prime Minister Nehru went to Bombay to attend the last rites of his comrade and before doing so, told Parliament "…he will be remembered as a great captain of our forces in the struggle for freedom and as one who gave us sound advice in times of trouble and in moments of victory, as a friend and a colleague on whom one could invariably rely, as a tower of strength which revived wavering hearts".
With all their differences of style and temperament, Nehru and Patel would have given the country a balance of leadership styles, Prasad and Rajaji helping to cement the duumvirate. But the Fates willed otherwise.
Patel's death, Prasad's absorption into constitutional propriety and Rajaji's returning to Madras left the Congress a one-tree hill. And despite Nehru's instinctively democratic temper, a slow but steady mono-culturism took hold over the party which forgot, surprisingly fast, its most powerful "captain".
Does the BJP have any right, political, moral or any other, to appropriate the legacy of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel? None. But it does have an excuse to do so.
The misuse of Patel is the result of the disuse of Patel, the counterfeiting of Patel is the result of the forfeiting of Patel. The BJP would never have thought of gilding the Sardar's legacy if it had not got dust-laden and cob-webbed in its own home.
Party politics in today's India is a child of political power practices from ancient and medieval times. These, to over-simplify them, have traditionally spun around two cults.
First, the hero-worshipping of a figure who is thought to be half-man and half-lion or tiger. This cult may be called lionism. The second, a sycophantic worshipping of descendants thought to be indestructibly self-perpetuating. This cult may be called scionism.
Both cults operate within and across the main political divide of India, especially in the states where the lion and tiger loom large as symbols, and where dynastic arrangements reign in most parties. Lionism and scionism have sought to perpetuate themselves by propitiating their icons. Both are in tragic error, both futile.
Patel would have told both cults off in no uncertain terms. We must not let the misappropriation of Patel go unchallenged. But we must seek his re-appropriation nationally, for we need his aura and Nehru's to work together again.
The hollow 'hunkar' of a lion's paper mask has tried to blow the dust off Patel's legacy. It has coated it, in the process, with the out-breath of a poor joke.
But the dramatics have done us all an unintended favour. They have jogged our memories of the tower of strength that we, in our troubled times, need so urgently to revive our wavering hearts.

(Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator,  diplomat and governor)

The Wordsmith as Public Intellectual

Mushirul Hasan

As a lover of words and phrases which he used to express, intelligently and in ordered sequence, Nehru emerged as a public intellectual whose opinions mattered.
Nehru’s books make public his remarkable erudition in dealing with a range of subjects
The French political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), talked about the part played in French political thinking by men of letters. In the second half of the 19th century, Bengal witnessed a “renaissance” to which literary men, reformers and journalists contributed their bit. Literary works in Urdu and Hindi had a striking impact in raising mass awakening. In this connection, I recount the creative writings of Jawaharlal Nehru to mark his 50th death anniversary (May 27). Most of his books were written in jail. His love of learning was too strong to be quenched by disabilities in jail.
“Long periods in prison,” Nehru wrote, “are apt to make one either a mental and physical wreck or a philosopher. I flatter myself that I kept myself very well during all these years.” As a lover of words and phrases which he used to express, intelligently and in ordered sequence, he emerged, perhaps unknowingly, as a public intellectual whose opinions mattered. And his books held an approach to life compounded of buoyancy and optimism, a humorous tolerance towards life’s foibles and even its trials.
Nehru read 55 books from May 21, 1922 till January 29, 1923 alone. Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol had a magical sway over him. Plato’s The Republic stimulated him, whereas To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf opened his eyes to many scenes of life. As a man with socialist leanings, he perused Beatrice Webb, a Fabian socialist, and Sidney Webb. Besides, he delved into philosophy, and turned the pages of history to illuminate his understanding of ideas and movements, which stood apart as the catalyst for momentous changes. As with the French Revolution or the Bolshevik Revolution, he wanted to know what lay behind people’s upsurge. For the histories of colonialism in India, he read a great deal more on the subject.
An antidote to isolation
Nehru’s reading habits saved him from a life of frustration in the house of sorrow. In this connection he cited the Dutch philosopher, Hugo Grotius, about whom Disraeli had written: “Other men, condemned to exile and captivity, if they survive, despair; the man of letters may reckon those days as the sweetest of his life.” Without comparing his own role with the famous jailbirds — Miguel de Cervantes and John Bunyan, he wrote on October 26, 1930: “In India today, we are making history, and you and I are fortunate to see this happening before our eyes and to take some part ourselves in this great drama.” Mulk Raj Anand, the progressive novelist and essayist, once remarked, “the quality of imagination he brought to his world experience … heightened his egoistically slanted self-realization into significant statement, which is not merely personal history, but the history of a generation, indeed the interpretation of a whole liberation struggle.” Reading history is good, but even more interesting and fascinating is to help in making history.
Putting pen to paper was an antidote to isolation and to harnessing his creative energies. For example, he asked himself, what he was heir to, and answered that he was heir to all that humanity had achieved over tens of thousands of years, to its cries of triumph and its bitter agonies of defeat, to that astonishing adventure, which had begun so long ago and yet continued and beckoned to man. He wrote on the wisdom of India’s past, on its great inexhaustible spiritual heritage, and on the vital necessity to apply it intelligently and reasonably to the present and the future. Toleration and peace were the whole essence of the Indian outlook, and that his countrymen would adjust, without too great difficulty, to a new scheme of things. But the frail old man in the loincloth told him not to be troubled by the outside word but to read, write or learn any handicraft.
On the struggle for freedom, of which he was the intellectual leader, Nehru doubted whether his countrymen would be attentive to or absorbed in his detailed narrative. It did not long for such trepidations to go out of Nehru’s mind. The fact is that he is generous, understanding, and kindly in evaluating the freedom struggle in Asia and Africa. Likewise, he was sympathetic to the ideals and aspirations of liberal nationalism in Turkey and in the Middle Eastern countries, and his Asian pride was burst by Europe’s machinations in the region. He drew comparisons between them and India, and aspired for their freedom.
On Gandhi’s advice, Nehru put in writing some of these thoughts in Glimpses of World History. It consists of his letters to Indira Nehru that were meant to acquaint her with the milestones in world history, the creative thrust and splendour of mankind, the theory and practice of statecraft, the multiple influences of events, and the fate of societies that have been constructed in a narrow and superficial spirit. The letters reflect on the Indian situation and its bearing on the outside world, so that his daughter could “see a mighty procession of living men and women and children in every age and every clime, different from us and yet very like us, with much the same human virtues and human feelings.”
Nehru identified the stirring and epoch-making past events, and reflected on those illustrious men and women who made the masses do great deeds — Lenin, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Cavour, the first Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Mazzini, Mustafa Kamal Atatürk, and, above all, Gandhi. Nehru admitted that it was not for him to assess his historical role, given his personal closeness to the man; but neither can those who remained untouched by the magic of his charisma and personality accomplish this task. Nonetheless, he recounted Gandhi’s leadership, his ideas, his conception of truth, and his ability to mould and move enormous masses of human beings. Without being inflexible, he adapted himself to changing circumstances and to the necessities of the moment. Certain that much ink and paper would be expended on discussing and critiquing Gandhi’s life theories and activities, he pointed out nonetheless, that he could not be reduced to theory. He would remain forever “a radiant and beloved figure.” The image of Gandhi that endured in Nehru’s mind is that of Gandhi leading the Dandi march, determined, staff in his hand.
Wide canvas of ideas
In his glimpses of the great moments in the career of these and many more people, he brought to the fore their treasures of knowledge, learning, heroism and devotion. What is more, his description recovers his own voice, his own enthusiasm, and his own strong arm at the service of his people. Drawing on the accumulated mass of notes, to which Nehru made frequent additions, his correspondence illustrate a unity of outlook and a command of facts which would do credit to any professional writer. Without the dust and tumble of politics, they are clear, emphatic, neat and without a trace of pedantry. Glimpses of World History, with its thousands of facts and events and names, stands by itself as “a demonstration of human intellectual capacity.” Hiren Mukherjee, Nehru’s biographer, remarked that a great deal happened while Nehru was in jail, affecting the whole gamut of his emotions and touched off thoughts. Hence, it was incumbent for a sensitive man like him to put them down in words that came with graceful spontaneity.
Nehru’s books make public the wide range of his interests, and his remarkable erudition in dealing with subjects ranging from domestic politics to the ethics and morality of science, from India’s role in world affairs to the urgency of setting up universities, and his thoughts on culture. Any yet, a running thread is discernible within all these diverse interests. For example, one is struck by Nehru’s awareness of the continuity between the past, the present and his hopes and vision for the future. Hence, he refers to the weight of the past, the greatness of the civilisation he had inherited, not as a burden to be carried, but as a point for judging the moral worth and wisdom of his decisions.
It is hard to find much fault with Nehru’s general conception of ideas and their execution or to deny the limitations of an otherwise wide canvas. The verdict of a reviewer in the American Current History was flattering; according to him, Glimpses of World History was a better survey of the world story than H.G. Well’s Outline. Fenner Brockway, a friend of India, acclaimed it. His daughter claimed that she learnt more from Glimpses of World History than any other history book she had studied at school. Passages from it were read out in the Aga Khan Detention Camp. Gandhi felt like translating them. Since then, new editions succeeded one another during Nehru’s life and many have appeared after his death, and the value of the work has not diminished. Besides public men, lawyer and judges thought highly of the Glimpses. Few works of the time require so little adaptation to satisfy students today.
(Mushirul Hasan is Nehru Fellow and former director-general of the National Archives of India.)

We Need to 'Reinvent' the National Movement: Irfan Habib

On the occasion of Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad Memorial Lecture at Ghalib Institute in New Delhi on Saturday, eminent historian Professor Irfan Habib spoke about the interpretation of the history of the Indian National Movement. The programme, compered by Institute director Raza Haider, also saw former President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad’s sons Purvez Ahmad and Justice Badar Durrez Ahmad; and Institute general secretary Sadiq-ur- Rehamn Qidwai, sharing the stage with Prof. Habib. He spoke to Rana Siddiqui Zaman on the sidelines

What’s the importance of the National Movement in today’s scenario, especially as the country has just seen an election?
India as a secular nation has never been in favour of a single-nation theory; only hardliners supported it, not the secular leaders. It was the result of such ideologies that we saw unwarranted changes in children’s text books. Such ideologies may find space again. In current times, therefore, we need to ‘reinvent’ the National Movement because it is part of the county’s history, the standing of which cannot be ignored.
What are the fields India needs to do more research in?
We should have a research balance. The West has a monopoly on the primary research. That has to be broken. Innovations like nano technology, nautical research, drugs and medicines which constitute the ground for the basic industrial structure or capital goods industry are best concentrated in the Unites States. That’s why we have the economic dominance of the West and it would continue if we ‘down work’ on our development.
What about research in social sciences?
This kind of monopoly is not there in social sciences. Still, Africans are in top grade and we are nowhere in Latin America. For instance, earlier we used to teach Chinese civilization in our history, now we don’t. If we do, we take an antagonistic approach. This is a very narrow-minded attitude. Therefore, I believe that researches have to be monitored and strengthened in the university systems, public sector R&D etc.
How healthy is India’s economic research?
We have no experts on the economic theory. We have one — Dr. Amartya Sen. If we don’t create more economic theorists, we will not be able to do any breakthrough in researches. It was way back in 1950s that Dr. P. C Joshi talked about the efficiency of small scale farming and it proved to be a breakthrough investigation. Today, we barely have any debate/brainstorming on social sciences as we silently accept the Washington Consensus of the free movement of the Capital. We are letting our ideologies be made up for us from the countries which have economic dominance on us. This is depressing.
What’s your opinion on India’s art, culture and heritage scene with reference to its history?
We have gravest difficulties in it. See our Amravati Sculpture is in the British Museum. We have difficulties in preservation and restoration. Many think that the Archaeological Survey of India is doing its job well, but all that it seems interested in is finding an antique and declare with pride that they have found it. Earlier, all universities used to get an encyclopaedic bi-annual publication on the ongoing and future researches. Now they have nothing. They just name a ‘district’ of the researched space with no other details. The editing of the publications has fallen. I can give you several examples of blunders committed by ASI purely as a historian. This isn’t a good sign either.

PM Modi takes leaf from Batra book: Mahabharat genetics, Lord Ganesha surgery

The Express News Service
The Indian Express, 28 October 2014

Seeming to take a page out of Dina Nath Batra’s book, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has linked medical science to mythology, citing “plastic surgery” and “genetic science” to explain the creation of Lord Ganesh and Karna respectively.

Speaking at a function in Mumbai on Saturday, he said, “Medical science ki duniya mein hum garv kar sakte hain ki hamara desh kisi samay mein kya tha. Mahabharat mein Karna ki katha, hum sab Karna ke vishay mein Mahabharat mein padhte hain. Lekin kabhi humne thoda sa aur sochna shuru karen to dhyaan mein aayega ki Mahabharat ka kehna hai ki Karna maa ki god se paida nahi hua tha. Iska matlab ye hua ki us samay genetic science maujood tha. Tabhi to Karna, maa ki god ke bina, uska janma hua hoga. ( We can feel proud of what our country achieved in medical science at one point of time. We all read about Karna in Mahabharat. If we think a little more, we realise that Mahabharat says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother’s womb).”
According to the text of the speech posted on the PMO website, he  said, “Hum Ganeshji ki pooja karte hain. Koi to plastic surgeon hoga us zamaane mein jisne manushya ke shareer par haathi ka sar rakhkar ke plastic surgery ka prarambh kiya hoga.  (We worship Lord Ganesh. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery).”
Stressing on the need to improve healthcare facilities, Modi said India had “capabilities” in several fields during ancient times. “There must be many areas in which our ancestors made big contributions. Some of these are well recognised. If we talk about space science, our ancestors had, at some point, displayed great strengths in space science. What people like Aryabhatt had said centuries ago are being recognised by science today. What I mean to say is that we are the country which had these capabilities. We need to regain these,” he said.
In his book, Tejomay Bharat, which was made compulsory reading in Gujarat schools, Batra, convenor of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, has said, “.America wants to take the credit for invention of stem cell research, but the truth is that India’s Dr Balkrishna Ganpat Matapurkar has already got a patent for regenerating body parts. You would be surprised to know that this research is not new and that Dr Matapurkar was inspired by the Mahabharata. Kunti had a bright son like the sun itself. When Gandhari, who had not been able to conceive for two years, learnt of this, she underwent an abortion. From her womb a huge mass of flesh came out. (Rishi) Dwaipayan Vyas was called. He observed this hard mass of flesh and then he preserved it in a cold tank with specific medicines. He then divided the mass of flesh into 100 parts and kept them separately in 100 tanks full of ghee for two years. After two years, 100 Kauravas were born of it. On reading this, he (Matapurkar) realised that stem cell was not his invention. This was found in India thousands of years ago.”
The book carries a customised message from Modi, as then Gujarat Chief Minister.

28 October 2014

Academics Must Question More: Romila Thapar

The Hindu, 27 October 2014

Historian Romila Thapar asked a full house of Delhi’s intelligentsia on Sunday why changes in syllabi and objections to books were not being challenged.
Prof. Thapar was delivering the third Nikhil Chakravartty Memorial Lecture here on Sunday, titled ‘To Question or not to Question: That is the Question.”
“There are more academics in existence than ever before but most prefer not to confront authority even if it debars the path of free thinking. Is this because they wish to pursue knowledge undisturbed or because they are ready to discard knowledge, should authority require them to do so,” the eminent historian asked.
Tracing the lineage of the modern public intellectual to Shamanic philosophers of ancient India, Prof. Thapar said the non-Brahminical thinkers of ancient India were branded as Nastikas or non-believers. “I am reminded of the present day where if you don’t accept what Hindutva teaches, you’re all branded together as Marxists,” she added.
“Public intellectuals, playing a discernible role, are needed for such explorations as also to articulate the traditions of rational thought in our intellectual heritage. This is currently being systematically eroded,” she explained.
Prof. Thapar stressed that intellectuals were especially needed to speak out against the denial of civil rights and the events of genocide. “The combination of drawing upon wide professional respect, together with concern for society can sometimes establish the moral authority of a person and ensure public support.”
However she said academics and experts shied away from questioning the powers of the day.

Why no reaction?
“This is evident from the ease with which books are banned and pulped or demands made that they be burned and syllabi changed under religious and political pressure or the intervention of the state. Why do such actions provoke so little reaction from academics, professionals and others among us who are interested in the outcome of these actions? The obvious answer is the fear of the instigators — who are persons with the backing of political authority,” Prof. Thapar said.
“When it comes to religious identities and their politics, we witness hate campaigns based on absurd fantasies about specific religions and we no longer confront them frontally. Such questioning means being critical of organisations and institutions that claim a religious intention but use their authority for non-religious purposes,” she said.
Prof. Thapar rued the fact that not only were public intellectuals missing from the front lines of defending liberal values, but also alleged a deliberate conspiracy to enforce what she termed a “Lowest Common Denominator” education.
“It is not that we are bereft of people who can think autonomously and ask relevant questions. But frequently where there should be voices, there is silence. Are we all being co-opted too easily by the comforts of conforming,” she asked.

23 October 2014

विवाद का धर्म

अरुण माहेश्वरी
जनसत्ता 29 सितंबर, 2014: कुछ टीवी चैनलों पर सनातनपंथियों और सार्इं भक्तों के बीच धर्म की दुनिया में चल रही वर्चस्व की लड़ाई के दृश्य बेहद दिलचस्प थे। मंदिरों से सार्इं बाबा की मूर्तियों को हटाने, उनकी पूजा-अर्चना पर रोक लगाने का जैसे एक अभियान चल रहा है। तैंतीस करोड़ देवी-देवताओं वाले सनातन धर्म के पास अब एक भी नए देवता को रखने की जगह नहीं है! जो लोग सनातन धर्म की सर्वसमावेशी उदारता के प्रमाण के तौर पर बुद्ध और महावीर को भी उसके देवताओं की कतार में शामिल करने की बात कहते हैं, उसी के इस आक्रामक रुख की उनके पास कोई विशेष व्याख्या नहीं है। सार्इं के चरित्र को लेकर मनगढ़ंत किस्सों को जरूर हवा में उछाला जा रहा है, जैसा कभी ब्राह्मणवाद और बौद्ध दर्शन के बीच या शैव और वैष्णवों के बीच के खूनी संघर्षों के समय में भी किया गया होगा।
जब हम आधुनिक भारत में राजनीति या सत्ता-विमर्श में धर्म के प्रवेश के इतिहास को देखते हैं तो अनायास ही हमारा ध्यान आरएसएस की ओर चला जाता है। आधुनिक भारत में आरएसएस एक ऐसा प्रमुख राजनीतिक उद्देश्यों वाला संगठन है, जो धर्म के जरिए राजनीति करने के साथ ही धर्म के क्षेत्र में भी प्रत्यक्ष दखलंदाजी को अपनी रणनीति का हिस्सा बनाए हुए है। आरएसएस के इतिहासकार विश्व हिंदू परिषद के गठन को आरएसएस के जीवन की एक बहुत बड़ी घटना मानते रहे हैं। गंगाधर इंदूरकर ने अपनी किताब ‘राष्ट्रीय स्वयंसेवक संघ, अतीत और वर्तमान’ में लिखा है- ‘संघ द्वारा स्थापित अन्य संस्थाओं की अपेक्षा इस संस्था (विश्व हिंदू परिषद) के विषय में गुरुजी को अधिक आत्मीयता थी। …राष्ट्रीय स्वयंसेवक संघ के अतिरिक्त किसी अन्य संस्था के साथ गुरुजी का नाम नहीं जुड़ा, किन्तु विश्व हिंदू परिषद के लिए बाईस व्यक्तियों का जो प्रथम ट्रस्ट बना, उसमें तेरहवें क्रमांक पर माधव सदाशिव गोलवलकर का नाम दिखाई देता है।’
आरएसएस का ‘एकचालाकानुवर्तित्व’ का सिद्धांत सिर्फ राजनीति के लिए नहीं, धर्म के क्षेत्र में भी हिंदू समाज के सभी धार्मिक संस्थानों को एक कमान के अधीन लाने का सिद्धांत है। विहिप का गठन हिंदू धर्म को एक पैगंबरी धर्म में तब्दील करने के मकसद से हिंदुओं की सभी धार्मिक संस्थाओं में दखल देने के लिए किया गया था। आरएसएस भारतीय धर्म-दर्शन की वैविध्यमय विशिष्टता को अपने रास्ते की बड़ी बाधा मानता रहा है। इसीलिए उसने गिरजाघरों और मस्जिदों की तरह किसी एक संस्था के द्वारा हिंदुओं के धार्मिक जीवन को चालित करने का बीड़ा उठा रखा है।
विहिप की घोषित मान्यताओं में कहा गया है कि ‘परिवर्तित संदर्भों में मठ, मंदिर आदि धार्मिक केंद्रों को केवल भक्ति, पूजा, उपासना केंद्रों के रूप में नहीं, बल्कि सेवा और सामाजिक प्रगति के आधार-बिंदु के रूप में देखा जाए।’ अपने अस्तित्व के इन तमाम सालों में विहिप धर्म-संस्थाओं पर अपनी जकड़बंदी के विस्तार में कितना सफल या विफल रहा, यह एक शोध का विषय है। लेकिन इतना साफ है कि उसने धार्मिक मठों, बाबाओं-गुरुओं को सत्ता की राजनीति का अंग बना कर धर्म के पूरे क्षेत्र को आत्मिक उत्थान या आस्था के बजाय वर्चस्व कायम करने के तमाम कुत्सित झगड़ों और विवादों का रणक्षेत्र जरूर बना दिया। आए दिन मठों के अंदर के खूनी संघर्षों के किस्से अखबारों में पढ़ने को मिलते रहते हैं। सत्ता के पक्ष-विपक्ष के खेल में शामिल करके संघी राजनीति ने तमाम मठाधीशों, बाबाओं-गुरुओं में सत्ता का नया मद जागृत किया है। सार्इं प्रसंग में सनातनपंथियों की यही आक्रामकता खुल कर सामने आ रही है। इतिहास गवाह है कि वर्णाश्रमी सनातन धर्म के झंडाबरदारों के जरिए अगर समाज में पुरातनपंथी विचारों और भावनाओं को किसी भी रूप में बल मिलता है तो आखिरकार इसका प्रभाव भारत में सामाजिक न्याय की लड़ाई और भारतीय जनतंत्र पर पड़ेगा।

साझी विरासत

ज्योति सिडाना
जनसत्ता, 15 अक्तूबर, 2014 

समाज विज्ञान के क्षेत्र में किसी भी देश को महज नक्शे के आधार पर प्रस्तुत नहीं किया जा सकता। सामाजिक प्राणी अपनी जिंदगी का आरंभ संस्कृति के अंतर्गत सुनिश्चित करता है। संस्कृति एक व्यापक अवधारणा है, जिसे कोई भी संकीर्ण चिंतन भ्रमवश धर्म के समकक्ष ले आता है। सच यह है कि संस्कृति जीवन जीने की पद्धति के परे जाकर जीवन को बदलने की पद्धति का हिस्सा भी है। भारत में प्राचीन दौर में जीवन जीने की वर्णवादी पद्धति से असहमति रखते हुए बौद्ध और जैन धर्म-दर्शन केवल उभर कर आए, बल्कि जीवन जीने की नई पद्धतियों का ऐसा संदेश दे सके, जिसने भारत के अंदर और बाहर साझा सांस्कृतिक शैली की शुरुआत की। जीवन जीने और बदलने की ये पद्धतियां पारंपरिकता और आधुनिकता के बीच के उन अंतर्विरोधों का प्रतिनिधित्व करती हैं, जिनके प्रभाव भोजन, पोशाक, भाषा आदि पर पड़ते हैं।
साझा सांस्कृतिक शैली में विषयपरकता या पूर्वाग्रह नहीं है। यह तो एक सापेक्ष अवधारणा है और यही सांस्कृतिक सापेक्षतावाद सहिष्णुता को जन्म देता है। हम लोगों के बीच चाहे कितनी ही बहुलता और भिन्नताएं क्यों हों, पर हम सबका जीवन एक दूसरे के बिना अधूरा है। बौद्ध और जैन चिंतन से शुरू हुई यह यात्रा इस्लाम, ईसाइयत, आस्तिक-नास्तिक, शैव, वैष्णव, उत्तरी, दक्षिणी, हिंदी, तमिल, नगरीय, ग्रामीण, आदिवासी, पुरुष, महिला के रूप में पता नहीं कितने खंडों में झलकती है, पर यही गुंथापन भी है।
हममें से अनेक विभिन्न कारणों से इस गुंथे स्वरूप को एक षड्यंत्र के तहत हमबनामवेमें बदल देते हैं और देश कई तरह के तनावों और संघर्षों का हिस्सा बन जाता है। असल में साझा सांस्कृतिक जीवनशैली ही धर्मनिरपेक्षता के दोनों अर्थों को स्थापित करती है। धर्मनिरपेक्षता, यानी सर्वधर्म समभाव, जो हमें हर क्रिया के संपादन में लचीलापन प्रदान करता है। धर्मनिरपेक्षता, यानी राज्य का अपना कोई धर्म नहीं होगा; राज्य किसी भी समूह की संस्कृति को यह कह कर संरक्षण प्रदान नहीं करेगा कि यही श्रेष्ठ है। संस्कृति तो सरल या जटिल होती है, इसे श्रेष्ठ या निम्न की संज्ञा देने वाले असल में संस्कृति के प्रति हिंसा करने के आदी हैं। पर उन्हें शायद यह पता नहीं कि संस्कृतियां मरती नहीं हैं, क्योंकि साझापन और बदलाव संस्कृतियों को सदैव जिंदा बनाए रखता है।
विश्व के विभिन्न भागों में आतंकवाद के नाम पर हो रहे हमले सांस्कृतिक वर्चस्व की लड़ाई बन गए हैं। इसे कट््टरवाद में बदलने के लिए धार्मिक अस्मिता का सहारा दिया जा रहा है। इस तरह के संघर्ष को विकसित देश हवा दे रहे हैं, क्योंकि वे इस सांस्कृतिक लड़ाई में अपनी प्रौद्योगिकी के वर्चस्व का उभार देख रहे हैं। पर वे शायद इस सच को भुला बैठे हैं कि प्रौद्योगिकी का वर्चस्व श्मशान की शांति तो पैदा कर सकता है, पर सामाजिक जंगल में विभिन्न छोटे-बड़े समूहों की सांस्कृतिक उछल-कूद की जमीन तैयार नहीं कर सकता। भारत को यह सोचना पड़ेगा कि छोटे-बड़े समूह विकास के वाहक हैं और साथ ही विकास को प्रयुक्त करने की इकाइयां हैं। इसलिए बहुलता और विविधता से उत्पन्न हुई साझा सांस्कृतिक विरासत का कोई विकल्प नहीं है। शायद इस दौर में भारत को कबीर, मीरां, प्रेमचंद, मोहम्मद इकबाल और रसखान जैसों की आवश्यकता है, जो साथ चलने का संदेश देते हुए रूढ़ियों के प्रति संयुक्त संघर्ष की मशाल जलाते हैं, ताकि साझा संस्कृति जिंदा रहे।

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