Friday, January 30, 2009

Banning the VHP, the Sena and such......

India is a conglomeration of nations, of ideas, of religions, of beliefs and of ways of life in constant flux. The very act of trying to define what India stands for, destroys the idea of India. Because any definition would be just a snapshot in time, from a particular point of view, of an evolving organism.

Various movements try to define India according to their own viewpoint and try to influence the rest of the population with the ideas that they personally espouse. Some of them try to bring about change with peaceful means while others resort to violence and hooliganism.

As long as you hold a belief and are using civilized democratic means to spread it, I have no problem with you. But when you use violence or hooliganism to enforce your point of view on others, I would want the law and order machinery to track you down and penalize you to the full extent of the law. I would expect the government of the day to prevent you from violating the liberty of others, but I would not want you banned.

What does banning an extremist organization achieve? Are they reformed overnight by a ban? From a practical point of view as well, banning an organization would just result in sending it underground and resort to furthering their cause through clandestine activities. I would rather have them above ground and monitor their activities and try to counter their arguments in a civilized way.

I am against banning any organization whether it is SIMI or the VHP or lately the Shri Ram Sena of Mangalore fame. I would not deny them the liberty to preach their ideas and viewpoints without resorting to violence.

Voltaire is credited with the saying 'I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to death your right to say it.'

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Talibanisation of our society

A government's first and foremost duty towards its citizens is to provide a secure and stable social environment in which they can freely carry out the 'pursuit of happiness'. The recent incidents in Mumbai and Mangalore have proved that both state governments have failed in this respect.

Rule of law as a basic principle of governance has to be upheld by any government, otherwise that particular government loses its moral right to govern. If a government can not govern according to the laws in force, it should either resign or be brought down. No political party should be allowed the temerity of indulging in selective governance. If you can not uphold the constitutionally guaranteed basic human rights of citizens regardless of their gender, religion, preferences or beliefs, you have no right to govern.

Hooliganism and vigilante culture if tolerated by society, carries with it the risk of destroying society's pluralistic nature and its tolerance of alternate lifestyles or points of view. This would lead to the distorted extremist beliefs espoused by a few to dominate society and culture. Talibanisation is not too strong a word to describe this phenomenon.

What is even more worrying is that the victims are afraid of speaking out fearing reprisals. That shows the degree of faith they have in the state apparatus to protect them. All of us who want our society to retain its pluralistic nature, have to raise our voices so that the governments in question are forced to make such hooligans face the full fury of the law and not get away with a slap on their wrist.

Monday, January 26, 2009

FTI Press Release and website launch


26 January 2009

On the important occasion of the Republic Day, the Freedom Team of India has released its new website ( and an eight page brochure.

The Team, established in 2008, aims to provide a forum for policy, strategy, and leadership development. It aims to find at least 1500 outstanding leaders in India to contest elections in the coming years under the banner of freedom and world-best policy.

The forty leaders and observers currently on the Team used this occasion to call upon all potential leaders across India to come together to achieve real freedom for India. Doing so will involve launching a systematic assault on bad governance through the democratic channel of elections.

As a Team member said, “It is perhaps high time that our educated classes finally woke up from their deep slumber of sixty years. If America can re-invent itself even after 230 years, then surely India, a much younger country – but with the wisdom of eight thousand years of civilisation – can do much better. We have the capacity and power to change India so that no one has to ever sleep hungry, or feel discriminated or disenfranchised. We want an India where, in the words of Tagore, ‘the mind is without fear and the head is held high’”.

The Team’s approach differs from that of others in three distinct ways. One, the Team is focused purely on equal freedom as a philosophical stance. Thus, no half-way compromises with freedom are acceptable, such as reservations and caste-based preferences of any sort, or subsidies for religious occasions or religious organisations. This clarity of philosophy does not allow any bad policies. For instance, the Team does not accept socialism, casteism, or mixing religion with politics, unlike most existing political formations in India.

Second, everyone on this Team is an equal. We do not have official roles like President or Secretary. Members work as a team (each with independent opinions, which are welcome) and take the lead on projects where they can contribute most.

Finally, FTI members will (mostly) not contest elections until they are fully prepared and organised for it, with sufficient time devoted to the communication of the Team’s message to the people. The Team will, in this way, guarantee high quality candidates under the banner of freedom at the hustings in the coming years.

If you can’t join us at the moment, then please support us by passing this media release around.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jayprakash Narayan

I witnessed the Nav-Nirman Andolan of 1973 first hand. I was studying in Ahmedabad at that time and saw the government of Chimanbhai Patel topple as a result of this agitation. It was started off in hostels and universities by students to ultimately envelope the entire state. Jayprakash Narayan was considered by the leaders of this agitation to be their guide and mentor. He was 71 years old at that time and was a veteran of the Indian independence struggle. He had already achieved the status of a senior statesman and was on his way to become the Lok Nayak. He was posthumously awarded the Bharat ratna in 1998.

When I first heard about Dr. Jayprakash Narayan's Lok Satta Party, I was intrigued by the similarity in name and that was one reason why I decided to investigate further . And I have to say that I am pretty impressed. Anyone who is against kleptocracy and wishes to promote the cause of liberty and better governance is a good guy in my book. A rural development model similar to Dr. Atanu Dey's RISC model, about which I have written earlier, also finds a place on his agenda. The party has fielded candidates in by-elections in Andhra Pradesh and has managed to get about 13% of the popular vote. This party has also held internal elections which is an anomaly in Indian politics!

I am disappointed with their website and content. Because I believe that any political movement that wishes to reform the prevailing system, has to reach out not just to the grassroots voters but has to attract potential leaders as well. And the internet is a crucial medium in this day and age, if you want to attract high caliber, young professional leadership material, as JP obviously wants to do.

He has managed to create a huge profile without the help of existing political parties or their infrastructure and should be commended for that. From what I am hearing, his party is planning to participate in the national elections this year and I wish them all the best.

I think his approach so far has been to create a grassroots movement, with the belief that good honest leaders will automatically emerge from the movement at the right time.

The Freedom Team of India is another movement which has similar goals. But their approach is to find enough honest, like minded leaders first and gather critical mass before contesting elections.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Revisiting Words, Swords and Gold

In this post we will talk about a sect which has used all instruments at its disposal, the Sword, the Word and Gold to achieve its dominance over other lines of thought.

In the year 1740, the ruler of a small town in Arabia and an Islamic scholar, both of whom were ambitious and visionary, entered into a pact. The ruler undertook to support and promulgate the vision of the scholar, while the scholar undertook to accept the ruler and his descendants as temporal leaders of the movement.

This partnership has been one of the most fruitful of all times for both parties concerned. It has impacted the lives of people in every part of the globe and changed the course of history as well as the nature of society and culture in many parts of the world.

The partnership endured and after quite a few ups and downs, by the early 20th century, most of Arabia was under the control of the Saud family with the help of the Wahhabis. The Wahhabi movement in turn was provided with a state and assumed power to dictate religious behavior in the kingdom.

With the discovery of oil wealth and the influx of itinerant workers in the region, the movement found itself with a source of funding as well as a pool of people to influence and convert to its way of thinking. The converts, when they returned, further influenced and converted their communities back home by constructing madrassas and mosques with their newly acquired wealth, preaching their new doctrine. With time this movement came to dominate the Muslim communities of the subcontinent.

I would like to end this post by quoting Iqbal :

cheen o arab hamaraa, hindostaaN hamaara,
muslim hain hum, watan hai saara jahaaN hamaara


tayghon key saaye meiN hum, pal kar jawaaN huwey haiN,
khanjar hilaal kaa hai, qawmi nishaaN hamaara

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Word or the Sword?

My last post was about a sect that depended solely on the Sword to propagate its version of Islam. This one is about another sect which is diametrically opposite and believes that the time of the Sword is over and the Word has to be solely relied upon to achieve Islam's objectives.

When a Muslim citizen of Pakistan applies for a passport, he has to sign a declaration which states the following:

1. I am a Muslim and believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad the last of the Prophets.

2. I do not recognize any one who claims to be a prophet in any sense of the word or any description whatsoever, after Hazrat Muhammad or recognize such a claimant as a prophet or a religious reformer as Muslim.

3. I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani to be an impostor nabi and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori, Qadiani or Mirzai groups, to be non-Muslims.

I have been interested in Mirza Ghulam Ahmed for a long time because one of my children shares her birthday with him. He was the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement and declared that he was the “Promised One” of all religions, fulfilling all messianic prophecies found in many major world religions. He gave up the Jihadi Sword and forbade carrying out physical Jihad, either for the sake of religion, or against a government which gives freedom of religion. According to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, their motto is “Love for All Hatred for None”.

The contributions of the Ahmadiyya community to Pakistan have been conveniently forgotten. A case in point is that of Dr. Abdus Salam, who not only happens to be the first Muslim but also the first and only Pakistani to win a Nobel Prize. Instead of celebrating his achievement, he has been conveniently forgotten in Pakistan because of his belonging to the Ahmadiyya sect. Under Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan embraced intolerance and declared Ahmadiyyas to be non-Muslims and since then their persecution has been going on in that country.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Assassins: Words, Swords and Gold

Sam, dam, dand and bhed are legitimate tools of state policy according to our very own Chanakya. Sam and bhed are Words while dam and dand are Gold and Sword respectively. A state should utilize all or any of the above to protect itself against any real or perceived threat as well as to expand its power and territory according to him. It would be foolish for us to expect our enemies to not indulge in the same activities that we consider legitimate when used by us.

It is possible to bring about change with the help of the Word, the Sword and Gold as it has been amply demonstrated throughout history. The Cult of the Assassins, established in the 11th century by Hassan Al-Sabbah, used assassinations of political and religious leaders as a way of bringing about change. It depended more on the Sword than either the Word or Gold to attain its objectives. Most historians credit this cult with being the first to use assassinations as a tool of state policy to bring about social and political change. They grew in power in Persia till the arrival of the Mongols led by Halaku Khan, when they were defeated and their power base was destroyed.

This cult aimed to achieve the social and political supremacy of the Nizari sect of Shii'te Islam. As fate would have it, this sect today has no geographical location to call its own and is scattered around the world with the Aga Khan as their spiritual leader. Perhaps the lesson here is that what is gained by using the Sword alone is of temporal nature.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Why War and At What Cost?

"yūnān-o-misr-o-romā, sab miṭ gaye jahān se
ab tak magar hai bāqi, nām-o-nishān hamārā"

When faced by the onslaught of the invading armies in the eighth century, both the ancient cultures of Egypt and Persia were completely wiped off the face of the earth, while the Hindu culture somehow survived. Surely there is some redeeming quality in our culture which other civilizations lacked.

The above couplet is from the well known tarana-e-hind by Allama Iqbal, penned years before he changed his mind about co-existence with infidels.

A lesser known fact is that Pakistan's first national anthem was written by a Lahore based Hindu, Jagan Nath Azad who later migrated to India when his personal safety could no longer be guaranteed by his Muslim friends and well wishers. The interesting thing is that Jinnah himself insisted that Pakistan's Qaumi Tarana be written by a Hindu. This was in line with his view that with time, Pakistan would mature to become a secular nation. Those were his exact words: "Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State."

The Pakistan that exists today has receded back to the mentality that pervaded the various invaders of our subcontinent throughout the last 1400 years. This is not the Pakistan that Jinnah envisioned. The entity which exists today and calls itself Pakistan is one which thinks in terms of Jihad and Taqqiyah.

We are not concerned with how this came about. What we are concerned with is that this state will and is using all available options at its disposal to first weaken and ultimately dismember our nation. We are at war, whether we like it or not, and neither the battleground, nor the tactics are of our choosing.

The terror spree at Mumbai is just one facet of the war that is forced upon us. The other facets are evident in our troubled North-Eastern States and the Sikh unrest of the eighties which was armed and funded by Pakistan as well as the constant trouble in Kashmir.

Our much maligned father of the nation is on record as saying that "I WOULD risk violence a thousand times rather than risk the emasculation of a whole race." and "I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence... I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor."

The question that we are faced with now is when we are at war, whether declared or undeclared, should we retaliate or not? I think Mahatma Gandhi has answered that question for us. And this is no ordinary war, it is a war of survival because the enemy’s sole objective is to destroy us as a nation and dismember us.

The political climate in our country is not conducive for a war at the moment because we are headed for a general election soon and the army needs a few months to prepare for a sustained war anyway. Our diplomats too need time to build up international opinion. So I expect the war to be a few months away, when the army is fully prepared and if there is a willing coalition at the center.

This war has to be taken to its logical conclusion of forever eliminating the threat that we face, by dismembering Pakistan. because there is no middle way left. We simply cannot fool ourselves by talking about coexistence. It has to be a sustained war till our objectives are achieved. There is a high possibility that there will be heavy casualties and not just military. The civilian death toll is going to be high as well. Because when it finds itself in a corner, Pakistan is bound to use its nuclear arsenal. But should that deter us in our duty to eradicate the threat to our way of life and to our right to exist as an independent nation? I would say that no price is too heavy to pay when it comes to that.

The whole essence of the BhagvadGeeta for me is summed up in this shloka "karmanye vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachan..." which translated in English would be:

"You have a right to perform your prescribed action,but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action.
Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities,and never be associated to not doing your duty."

Saturday, January 03, 2009

What New Year?

New Year?

What new year? It is just a rehash of the same old stuff going on everywhere around the world. Nothing has changed, there will just be more of the same.

On another note, whose turn is it going to be next? Rajkot, Raibareli, perhaps Raipur, or maybe Ranchi? And is it going to happen on the 13th of January?

Jaipur, May 13, 2008
Ahmedabad, July 26, 2008

New Delhi, Sep 13, 2008
Bombay, Nov 26, 2008

Which city next?