Less Known Temples of Kerala – 3: Thirunavaya, Trippadam, Hanuman Kshetram

   The three temples  are near one another and can be comfortably covered within two hours. ;    (between kottakkal & kuttipuram on Mangalore  – Cochin rd ‘ 19 km from kadampuza ). Ed visited these temples in June 2011. PS Roads in Kerala have innumerable turns , bends , forks, and junctions. Of course there are no sign boards where you need them. However people are helpful enough.

      Thirunavaya :

    Vishnu Kshetram on the banks of Bharatha Puza. It is approximately 19 Km from Kadampuza. On the bank of the river steps have been built and maintained for convienence of pilgrims. Pitru Karma and kria ceremonies are conducted here, and many who are unable to go to Kashi or Gaya come here. You will also see many ladies performing ‘ tarpanam’, an unusual site, as normally it is the men folk who perform these ceremonies.

There is a seperate sanctum for Lakshmi. The story goes; when Adi Sankara visited this spot he found that people of the area were arrogant on account of the vast wealth they possessed.  He saw that the reason was living in the vicinity of the idol of Laksmi whose right hand with an open palm facing downwards was below the hip  level. This ensured that any one who prayed to her was showered with wealth, deserving or not. So Adi Sankara prayed to the mother goddess to revert to her normal abhaya hasta, which she did. This ensured that undeserving persons did not get wealth.

Across the Bharatha puza is a temple for Brahma. However there are no boats or bridge to cross over for a darshan of Brahma.

Trippadam ;

       Trikanangode ; Siva Ksehtram; Markandeya Moksha Sthalam

Markandeya was destined to live for only 16 years. When he found his parents sad and unhappy on the last day of life on earth he went to Trikanangode , the abode of Paramasivan, for help. He was chased by Yama dhootas and fled towards the shrine. The AAL  in front of the temple split and gave way and allowed him to pass.

Markandeya entered the temple premises and in to the sanctum sanctorum and embraced the the Linga and prayed. The Yama dhootas could not enter the area and went to complain to Yama who himself came on the scene and summoned the young lad to come out.  When Markandeya refused Yama who by then had grown angry and frustrated bloated as he was with the power he wielded over all beings, threw the the pasak kayaru at the boy. The noose wrapped around the boy and the the Linga. When Yama pulled the pasam the Siva Linga was displaced and out came Lord Siva himself , angered by the the action of yama who had dared to take away the life of his bhakta.

     It is said he covered the distance to Yama in three steps, and slew him with his trisulam. Then he went to the temple pond and washed away the stains . There is a temple at the original site and the three small temples depicting the three steps taken by Siva, near the present  main temple.

The main pujas in this temple are : Japa of Mritunjaya Mantram’, Uma Maheswara Puja ‘& Maha Rudra Yagna

Rama Temple at Alathiyoor

(12 Km from Tirur)

        It is a temple for Rama but over a period of time Hanuman has gained  pradhanam. There is a separate enclosure for Lakshmana.

     Here one will find a strange looking Hanuman idol, with hands folded and head tilted as if listening carefully. The sthala puranam Rama spoke to Hanuman personally and in confidence and gave him some special signs by which he could identify himself to Sita  as the special dhoota of Rama. He related to Hanuman incidents not known even to Lakshmana, who was standing at a distance. Hanuman with folded hands is listening carefully to Rama. The sight of Hanuman with folded hands and attentive demeanour cannot but bring tears in to ones eyes.

Inspiration:The Brave , the dedicated, and the simple ones

Inspiration.

A Housewife, A student, an old man, Auto rickshaw men.

All stories are real. How ordinary people do wonderful things.

Mother’s plight inspires daughter

Overcoming Odds, Domestic Help’s Child Scores 96.96% In SSLC Examination

New Picture (39)Shruthi Balakrishna | TNN

Bangalore: Sixteen-year-old Jhansi N bravely fought some battles to secure 96.96% in the SSLC exam this year. This soft-spoken teenager scored a stunning 606 out of 625. What makes the story even more remarkable is that this student of Martin Luther English School faced financial difficulties while preparing for the exam.

Her father Vasu works as a labourer and her mother Dhanalakshmi is a domestic help. Moved by her mother’s plight, this young girl decided to become an acheiver. “When my mother would come home, she’d look so tired. It would hurt me to see her work so hard. If I get a good job, she needn’t struggle like this in future,” she said. Her ambition is to become a cardiologist.

“I was little disturbed with the financial situation at home, but got over it and focused on studies,” she said.

She studied continuously for 8-10 hours a day during holidays. “Sometimes, I took breaks in between. I’d go for a walk but then too, I’d try to recall what I’d studied,” she said. As her parents were working, the quiet atmosphere at home helped her concentrate. Scoring centum in Maths was not easy.

“I found it difficult. I solved a lot of model question papers. I got one mark less for 97%,” she said.

Interestingly, she didn’t go for tuitions but studied on her own. “I won’t go for tuitions even for II PU. I’ll start preparing for the CET from I PU itself,” Jhansi said.

Though she doesn’t come from a strong academic background, she managed to excel in the exam. “I studied in a government school in a remote village in Andhra Pradesh. When I came to Bangalore I studied in a government school for Class 8 and 9 where there were no teachers.”
She loves reading including novels.

“Charles Dickens is my favourite author,” she said. Jhansi would also participate in co-curricular activities like debates and essay competition. She’s inspired by former President Abdul Kalam and read his book ‘Wings of Fire’.

“My mother is also my inspiration,” she said, with tears of joy in her eyes.
If you want to help her,
contact: 41643680/ 26569193


Almost 100,

he has the perfect recipe for a long, healthy life

New Picture (40)Vijay Singh I TNN

Mumbai: Watching an active Kashinath Ponde prepare his own tea and sing classical Bhavgeet on a harmonium, one can never guess that this former postmaster is 99 years old.

Ponde is perhaps the fittest nonagenarian in the country with a razor-sharp memory. He lives alone at his home in Solapur, and regularly travels to Mumbai and Pune to meet his sons and their families.

On Sunday, Ponde is throwing a bash in Pune to celebrate his 100th birthday. “There will be 200 guests. But there will be no birthday cake or candles, just good wishes and prayers of my loved ones,’’ he smiles. Ponde, who had voted during the first Lok Sabha elections in 1952, still has a clear vision, and can even read fine print without using any lenses.

“I remember I was posted in Akluj, district Solapur, in 1952 when the first elections took place. But I don’t remember who I voted for then,’’ he says. Over the last 57 years, Ponde has derived very specific conclusions on Indian politics and politicians.

“Over 90% of politicians today are in it for power, money and prestige; only 5% may be there for desh seva but they’re perhaps not elected,’’ he says.

Remembering the Indian leaders of his time, Ponde says he has seen stalwarts like Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru at Ahmednagar, Pune and other parts of the state before Independence.

“I also remember being very impressed by the oratory of Barrister Savarkar (Veer Savarkar) at public meetings in Pune; he had a terrific voice like that of a tiger,’’ he adds.

Born on May 10, 1910, Ponde completed his matriculation from Society High School in Ahmednagar in 1932. He even worked on farms and looms while schooling and joined the postal department in 1933. For the next 35 years, he was posted in several post offices in various towns and districts in the state. Surprisingly, the grand old man has maintained his weight through a simple yet disciplined vegetarian diet.
He walks ramrod straight, and even washes his own clothes. The only sign of ageing, perhaps, is that he is a little hard of hearing.

So what is the secret of his long life? “I used to walk four hours daily till five years ago. Then I cut down on my walking as my doctor-son advised me not to engage in such vigorous activity. I eat vegetarian meals, and my love for music keeps me happy and healthy,’’ he says.
Ponde’s diet normally consists of a chapati, rice, milk with crushed almonds in it, garlic and a vegetable or two.

“I never have aerated drinks, and never ever touch tobacco,’’ he asserts. His granddaughter Poonam Ponde, a Pune-based lecturer, says: “He keeps himself updated by reading newspapers, and has not forgotten his hard and frugal childhood. Grandpa still scolds us if we shop new clothes, as he remembers how hard it was to make cloth on a loom as a child nearly a century ago.’’

PONDE’S POINTERS

Never touch tobacco

• Be a vegetarian and have meals on time

• Walk, whenever you can

• Work honestly

• Make music a part of your life

Green gardener

In this weekly series, TOI honours the city’s unsung heroes who are doing their bit away from the public glare

New Picture (41)Anoop Jaipurkar | TNN

Waste management in the city, like anywhere else in the world, is a critical issue and needs immediate attention of not just the authorities but every responsible citizen. “Brazen neglect has resulted in dumping of tonnes of unsegregated waste at Urali and subsequent rise in pollution followed by falling health standards in the affected villages,” says Lalita Bhave, a banker, who has been creating awareness about waste segregation and decomposition of biodegradable discard for the last 14 years.

Bhave was always fascinated by greenery. So, she could never assimilate the fact that people need to be told about environment and its conservation. “I grew up in a surrounding where the need for nature and its preservation were imbibed in our psyche. And since my daughters have grown up the same way, I know, they will never feel the need for tutoring. It’s a civic sense,” she says.

Bhave’s affair with nature continued after marriage as she did a gardening course and started a plants library. Her interest in landscaping took her to a relative’s place where she saw a roof-top garden made by converting household waste into useful manure. “I decided that my terrace would also look the same. It was exactly a year’s effort. Hundreds of people have visited my garden since then.”

But she’s not the one to bask in self-glory. “The inspiration behind my effort was the desire to minimise the plight of rag-pickers, especially women, who spend most part of the day scurrying through garbage heaps in search of scrap that earns them as little as Rs 50 a day,” says Bhave.
For the last 20 years, the Bhave family has not let any trash go out of the house. Ask her an estimate of waste she has utilised at her roof-top terrace so far and she calculates it to over 10,000 kg. The city generates an estimated 1,000 tonnes of garbage a day. Imagine how much waste an estimated 6 lakh households of the city can decompose if they follow this simple methodology.
“Of course, those living in apartments do not have the luxury of maintaining a terrace garden. But the same decomposable waste can be put in flower pots in smaller quantities and leave left-over food for birds. The least one can do is just to segregate the waste. This will do a world of good not just for the municipal corporation but to the thousands of villagers in Urali-Phursungi who have been plagued by this unethical and inhuman dumping since last two decades,” she says. Bhave, who obtained a diploma in conservation of natural resources, has delivered over 150 lectures.

Recently, she suggested the PMC to formulate a plan so that the biodegradable waste can be dumped on barren land around the city to make it cultivable again.

Indeed, the ideas sound very simple and reasonable. However, the major stumbling block has been the lack of awareness, and compulsions on part of the civic body. “Segregating waste and recycling it to the extent possible should become a way of life so that we do not have to teach them to the coming generations,” she concludes.

Creating an oasis IN THE CITY

This group of autorickshaw drivers works to keep their surroundings green

New Picture (43)Lakshmi Kumaraswami | TNN

When you think of autorickshaw drivers, what automatically comes to mind is reckless driving and the endless arguments you have over fares and definitely not green crusaders. But this bunch of auto drivers have been working to green the city for the last one-and-a-half years.
It is common to find them hard at work on the patch of green on the dull grey pavement outside the Kilpauk Medical Hospital. This group of 25 began planting saplings on the pavement as the area which served as their auto stand became very unhygienic.

“Some of us have been here for at least 20 years and it was disheartening to see how dirty the place was, especially outside a hospital,” says K Mathivanan, secretary of the auto stand who took the first step in adding greenery to the pavement. S Jagan adds that it was very unpleasant as they were forced them to remain in such surroundings all day.

A year and half ago, they decided to do something about it. The pavement, which at that time didn’t have concrete but mud, was swept. “We drew out a patch of the pavement and replaced the mud with soil. We then brought in some saplings,” says M Hamsa. Initially, they were planting crotons and spinach but eventually moved on to jasmine, guava and karpuravalli (belonging to the mint family).

“We also nurtured a banana plant and some creepers that grow along the hospital’s wall,” Mathivanan says, pointing to the green vines scaling the compound.

They source their plants on their daily journeys as and when they see them. “We buy around two plants a month and try to have a variety,” says Ravi Kumar. The group has planted over 50 plants and take it in turns to water the patch. “Maintaining it can be quite difficult as people pluck leaves and even spit in the area.

It is very frustrating because after all the effort we have taken we want the place to look nice,” says T Sekar. They hope to erect a plastic fence shortly but are yet to raise funds. “As autorickshaw drivers we don’t earn much, so we try to put in whatever we can, be it Rs 10 or more,” says Mathivanan.

Since they started planting saplings, things at the auto stand have never looked better. In fact, an actual pavement has also been built around the green patch. “It feels good when the doctors compliment our work,” says Hamsa. W Santosh adds that these comments encourage them to nurture their patch of green.

“We plan to do this as long as we are here and will try to work on other dry patches in the area as well. After all, Kilpauk has given us so much. We would like to do our bit for the society by keeping the area clean and green,” says Mathivanan.
lakshmi.kumaraswami@timesgroup.com

Sikhs in Pakistan forced to pay Jizia

Heading back to the days of Mohammad Gazani, Ghori and Aurangzeb?

Sikhs pay Rs 20m as ‘tax’ to Taliban


Islamabad: Members of Pakistan’s Sikh community living in the Aurakzai tribal region have paid Rs 20 million as “tax” to the Taliban after militants forcibly occupied some of their homes and kidnapped a Sikh leader.

The Taliban had demanded Rs 50 million as ‘jizia’ — a tax levied on non-Muslims living under Islamic rule — but the militants finally settled for Rs 20 million.

After the amount was paid, the militants vacated the homes they had taken over and released Sikh leader Saiwang Singh, officials in the tribal region were quoted by a newspaper. The officials said the Taliban had announced that the Sikhs were now free to live anywhere in Aurzakzai Agency.

The militants also announced they would protect the community, saying that no one would harm them after they had paid jizia. Sikhs who had left the area would now return to their homes and resume their business, the officials said.

The militants had occupied at least 10 homes of Sikhs in Qasimkhel village on Tuesday. About 35 Sikh families have been living in Qasimkhel for many years.

The Taliban demand for jizia was resolved at a jirga or council held on Wednesday through the efforts of local tribal elders. The militants had said the Sikhs should pay jizia in accordance with Sharia or Islamic law. PTI

Under trials : stuck in prison, despite getting bail

new-picture-32

A matter of great shame. Judicial processes are teriibly slow and convoluted. It benefits the criminal wonderfully.  Innocents especially the poor are always at the receiving end.

Over 40 undertrials stuck in prison, despite getting bail

They Can’t Walk Free As They Have None

To Stand Surety For Them

A Subramani | TNN

Chennai: That any arrested person is entitled to walk out of jail once he obtains bail and furnishes surety to the satisfaction of a magistrate, is common knowledge.

But do you know that more than 40 persons are languishing at Puzhal Central Prison-II though they have got bail but are unable to find persons to stand surety for them? Also, do you know that one such less-privileged prisoner — P Muthu of Kumananchavadi near Poonamallee — died of cancer after remaining in prison for nearly three years?

While Muthu and at least 43 others remained behind bars because they had no one to stand surety for them, 91 others are in Puzhal-II for more than a year as the police concerned had not filed a chargesheet as yet.

“Most of them are petty offenders, and are ready to plead guilty. Even if convicted, they would be sentenced only for a few months. But, unless the police file a chargesheet, the magistrate cannot dispose of the matter,” said a prison official. “Delaying chargesheet is a way of delaying their release,” he added.

Puzhal Prison-II has 116 inmates who are in jail for more than 90 days but less than one year. There are 43 others who are staying in jail between 60 days and 90 days. “In regular crimes, if the police fail to lay chargesheet in 60 days, the accused could avail the statutory bail benefit and walk out of jail,” said special public prosecutor for human rights cases, V Kannadasan.

The Puzhal-II is home to about a dozen inmates facing charges under Section 75 (public nuisance) of City Police Act and Section 7(1)(a) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. They are inside for periods ranging 3-4 months, in spite of the fact that if convicted they would be sentenced to serve only a couple of weeks in jail.

“Personal liberty is the most sacred of all fundamental rights,” said Kannadasan, adding, “prison authorities cannot be blamed for this sorry state of affairs.” He said that the data itself was being compiled only as per the directions of the director-general of police (prisons) R Natraj, to be sent to the legal services authority for redressal.

Even in the case of Muthu, the prison authorities took note of his poor health condition and forwarded his request to be sent out on own bond to the jurisdictional court. As there was no response either from the court or from legal aid authorities, he was admitted in the Government Royapettah Hospital in February 2009. Till his death on April 9, he did not get any help, lament prison staff.

He was arrested by the Poonamallee police on charges of preparing to commit robbery (crime no. 735/2006) in 2006, ahead of the assembly elections. “His three-year incarceration was meaningful in one sense. It exposed the insensitivity of the judiciary and ineffectiveness of the legal aid system,” said Kannadasan.

Easter : Christa Purana still moves faithful to tears

Christa Purana still moves faithful to tears

Ashley D’Mello | TNN


Mumbai: Avelino Rejoice Dhakul, 81, never fails to bring tears to people’s eyes when he renders the Passion of Christ from the Christa Purana, describing scenes from the crucifixion at the Good Friday service at St Francis Xavier Church, Vile Parle.

Dhakul, who has been singing solo for the last 25 years, is keen that others should step up to carry on the torch, but he says sadly, “I have no luck so far.’’

Singing of verses from the Christa Purana, which is written in the old Marathi script, is a looked-forward to ritual during the season of Lent in some of the old churches of suburban Mumbai, although the last three decades have seen a slow fading of this tradition.
Lent, commemorates 40 days of fasting and abstinence, before the death of Christ on Good Friday. The singing involves a mournful incantation of the verses, which detail the life and death of Christ. This is done during the Passu ceremony when the body of Christ is lowered from the cross for veneration by the congregation.

The Christa Purana is part of the religious and cultural tradition of Catholics in Mumbai, Goa and Mangalore. Written by an English Jesuit missionary, Thomas Stevens, who studied at Oxford and settled in Goa in the 17th century, the writing follows the Hindu puranic style and is regarded as an epic.

Dhakul states that most youngsters do not want to learn to sing the verses in the Purana. “The singing on Good Friday can sometimes last almost two hours, and most youngsters stay away from such a task,’’ he says. “The interest in singing in Marathi is also not strong any more. Youngsters prefer to sing hymns in English.’’

But for the D’Mello brothers at St Andrew Church in Bandra, Conrad (39) and Anselm (36), who sing, the experience is different. “The tradition of singing the Purana is still strong in our family but it has slowed down in Bandra over the last decades,’’ says Conrad. “We have the puran tradition since my great-grandfather’s time and probably even before that, we sang the puran verses regularly at home when we were growing up in Bandra.’’

Even among the Catholics of Vasai who speak and write in Marathi, the tradition is fading. Bishop Thomas Dabre of Vasai explains why.

“The Purana is no longer popular in Vasai because it is written in old Marathi, which is sometimes difficult to understand. The churches now use modern hymns,’’ he says.
Efforts to revive the epic are under way. Fr Simon Borges of Kurla has helped produce a CD of songs from the puran. The issue has also been taken up by Major Leon Fonseca, executive committee member of the East Indian Association. “We are discussing ways and means of preserving this centuries-old tradition. It should not be allowed to die,’’ he says.

Pune bishop
The bishop of Vasai, Thomas Dabre, has been appointed bishop of Pune by the Vatican. A Marathi scholar and a well-known Catholic theologian, Bishop Dabre is an authority on Indian mysticism and Sant Tukaram. One of his main thrusts has been interreligious dialogue and communal harmony. TNN

Mantralaya mutt : Chief Pontiff passes away

Head of Mantralaya mutt passes away

TIMES NEWS NETWORK 

new-picture-30

Bangalore: The chief pontiff of Sri Raghavendra Swamy Mutt in Mantralaya, Sri Sushmeendra Teertha Swami, passed away on Saturday following a cardiac arrest. Swami Sushmeendra was 83 and breathed his last at 2.20 pm at a private hospital here.

He’d been admitted to the hospital a fortnight ago after he complained of age-related ailments, according to Rajagopalachari of Raghavendra Mutt. His body was taken to Mantralaya where it will be kept for public viewing between 5 am and 8 pm on Sunday before being taken to brindavana (temporary burial).

Born in Nanjangud near Mysore, Swami Sushmeendra at 59 joined the Mantralaya mutt in the temple town on the banks of the Tungabhadra in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh in 1985.

“He was instrumental in taking Mantralaya closer to people,” recalled Rajagopalachari.

The Brave Ones:Ummul Khair

Fighting palsy, she learns

the alphabet at 21, graduates at 30

Karthika Gopalakrishnan | TNN 

Chennai: Ummul Khair has made the journey of a lifetime in the last 10 years. Her body is affected by cerebral palsy but it is her mind that the sociology graduate has always relied upon to take her forward — from learning the alphabet at the age of 21 to completing her college education almost a decade later.

“I was at Vidya Sagar when I was five years old but I could not go to school once my family moved to Bangalore. I was at home for nearly 12 years. I watched my cousins study and wanted to be independent as well. I did not want charity,” she said after receiving her degree certificate at the 14th graduation ceremony of MOP Vaishnav College for Women on Sunday.

During a family visit to Chennai, Ummul got in touch with Vidya Sagar founder Poonam Natarajan and that helped her on her way.


“We had looked after her all along and were scared about letting her stay alone.

But Poonam akka convinced us that Ummul could study. We had only thought about making her walk, never about making her study. Today, we are extremely proud of her. When we cry, she gives us courage saying she will study and do well,” said her mother, 65-year-old Umaira Batul, with tears in her eyes.

The family currently resides in Bangalore’s Shivaji Nagar. Umaira’s husband Mohammad Azham Khan (85) used to sew plastic baby sheets with pillows, diapers and clothes for infants. Ummul’s younger brother works at a hotel.

Since she had never enrolled in school, Ummul learnt the alphabet when she was 21 and took three years to clear the class X board exams conducted by the National Institute of Open Schooling. After completing her class XII on a sponsorship at Lady Andal Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Chetpet, she enrolled for a degree in Sociology at MOP Vaishnav College for Women.

“I am lucky to have got the opportunity to study. In all aspects, it has helped me learn. The teachers and students were always supportive. ‘Sari Day’ was one of the most memorable occasions as my classmates even helped me wear a sari. It was a lot of fun,” Ummul recounted.

Along with her internships in college — counselling alcoholics and working with a human rights organisation — her world view was further moulded after a trip to the US in June last year as part of the Global Leadership Programme.

“I participated in everything, even adventure sports where we were suspended 40 feet in the air. There is a lot of accessibility for disabled individuals in the US. I was able to go anywhere I wanted,” she said.

After returning to the city, Ummul went on to finish her course and is now pursuing a course in law at the Tamil Nadu Dr Ambedkar Law College. Hoping to be able to fight for the rights of the disabled in a few years, Ummul was not at all taken aback by the standing ovation she received during Sunday’s graduation ceremony.

The dignitaries on stage rose from their chairs and the students cheered. Unfazed by it all, Ummul exuded confidence. She knew she deserved it.

THE HONOURS: Ummul Khair receives her degree certificate from BS Raghavan, former chief secretary of Tripura. (Below) Students of MOP Vaishnav College For Women take the oath during the convocation at Kamrajar Arangam on Sunday

Religion and politics do not make as lethal a mix as Politics and violence

Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Gaffar Khan, Suu Kyi, The Dalai Lama were /are  staunch believers in their religion and examples of politics based on compassion and humane values.

Then there are ‘Secularists”, Stalin, Mao, Jinnah, The US administration with their blend of secularism and politics.

Ed

extracts from TOI

Secularists aren’t saints

Madhu Purnima Kishwar

Congress leaders are understandably the most vociferous in displaying righteous outrage at the unfortunate speech delivered by Varun Gandhi, just as they spare no occasion to castigate Narendra Modi for the Gujarat riots of 2002.

However, their words would have more credibility if they expressed comparable shame at the fact that their party led the way in showing that riots and massacres can be used as means to manipulate vote banks.

Apart from the infamous massacre of Sikhs in 1984, the 1970s and 1980s witnessed a series of communal riots presided over by the Congress party in places like Meerut, Malliana, Jamshedpur, Kanpur, Bhiwandi, Bhagalpur, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad.

The arrest of Congress leader Meghsingh Chaudhary at the instance of the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigative Team for his active participation in the Gulbarga Society massacre in Ahmedabad in 2002 confirms what knowledgeable people in Gujarat have for long alleged — that many Congressmen enthusiastically joined hands with members of the sangh parivar in the anti-Muslim riots of 2002.

Without doubt, serious problems do arise when politicians decide to use select religious symbols and manipulate religious sentiments of people in order to acquire power. However, history is witness to the fact that religion and politics do not make as lethal a mix as do politics and violence.

We would do well to remember that many of the highly venerated political figures of the 20th century have been those who brought the best values of their faith traditions to uplift politics to new moral heights. By contrast, many of those who claimed to be secular and, therefore, treated matters of faith with disdain, caused massive genocides and human suffering.

The US is secular but that has not prevented it from polarising global politics on religious lines.

Stalin did not use a religious justification while carrying out his genocide of the Soviet Union’s peasantry. He did so in the garb of a secular cause, namely, “collectivisation of land” and the uprooting of those he called “kulaks”. Nor did he confine his waves of assassinations and purges to those with religious beliefs. He claimed that he killed people in the name of building a secular and socialist republic.

Jinnah was not religious minded. He too merely used certain religious symbols and Islamic slogans to mobilise Muslims against the Hindus as a political force.

Jinnah’s aim was secular in so far as he acquired political power for himself. Though claiming to defend the political and economic interests of Muslims of the subcontinent, he left behind many more millions of Muslims in India as a mistrusted minority than could be accommodated within the absurd geographical borders of the new ‘Islamic’ state he created for them.

By contrast, Mahatma Gandhi’s politics and world view were rooted in Hindu Sanatan Dharma. Gandhi chose truth and nonviolence as his guiding principles, not any ideology or “ism”. He drew some of his inspiration from the bhakti-Sufi traditions rather than the ideology of modern-day secularism, as defined by the West. That did not prevent him from being a historic global role model of ethical politics.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan derived strength from his unshakeable faith in Islam. That did not prevent him from becoming Gandhi’s most valued colleague in promoting the cause of communal harmony and freedom from colonial rule.

Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama make no secret of the fact that they draw inspiration from their Buddhist world view.

Martin Luther King drew his strength from Christianity.

It is worth noting that even Marxists and socialists in India have had to deploy the wisdom of men like Kabir, Nanak, Bulleh Shah and Namdev whenever they decide to spread the message of communal harmony as a counter to the divisive agenda of some Hindutvavadis.

All these bhakts and Sufis derived their world view from their deep connection with the Divine who they saw manifested in every living being, rather than through secular education.

In short, despite the inspiration the leaders discussed above took from their religious ideals, they remain outstanding examples of politics based on compassion and humane values.
The writer is a senior fellow at CSDS.

Islam and Peace:Muslims must speak in one voice against extremism

An article courtesy  TOI, of  17 March.

It is very very rare to see such frank opinions on extremists, root cause for extremism, especially when linked to a religion with more than its share of violence and man made tragedies.

Even brave souls like MJ Akbar have not been so forthright in in voicing their opinions.

We wish those who should read it, do so, and introspect.

Ed:

Build The Peace Consensus

Muslims must speak in one voice against extremism

Sadia Dehlvi 

The trail of terror continues with cricketers as the latest target. The Mumbai and Lahore attacks, public executions and the murder of over a thousand civilians in the Swat valley by Taliban-style terrorists are horrifying examples of atrocities committed by militant groups thriving on political Islam.

Global Muslim communities urgently need to condemn the agenda of political Islam that distorts religious scriptures to legitimise violence. This ideology of Islamism is threatening to replace a moderate and spiritual Islam, leading to the destruction of many societies and, in particular, oppression of women and minorities.

Muslims have a moral responsibility to engage in the social, political and economic development of the societies they live in. Global Muslim societies would do well to imitate the exceptional efforts of Indian clerics in denouncing terrorism and delinking it with Islam. Sincere moral outrage needs to be expressed at Taliban atrocities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, political kidnappings and assassinations, militancy in Kashmir, Shia-Sunni killings in Iraq and Pakistan, fatwas condoning suicide bombings in the Israel-Palestine conflict and other atrocities affecting innocent lives.

Muslims require an international consensus on combating extremism. Our credibility is lost when we express selective outrage, as in the aftermath of the Danish cartoons controversy.

Political Islam draws its lifeblood from the ideology of fighting the oppressor, but has clearly become the oppressor itself. Though some Islamist groups have renounced violence, accepted the principles of democracy and marginally improved their stand on women and minority rights, they remain socially conservative.

In Jordan, the Islamist party does not support the rights of women to file for divorce. In Kuwait, the Islamists fought against the right of women to vote. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood will not allow a woman or a person from a minority community to become head of state. Unfortunately, militant Islamist groups thrive in the political vacuum created by oppressive regimes in most Islamic countries.

Muslims must stop blaming the problem of extremism on catastrophic policies of foreign countries. For, two wrongs simply do not make a right. It is primarily a Muslim problem, threatening both Muslim and non-Muslim societies. We need to acknowledge that there is a problem of theology when extremists talk of going straight to heaven after taking innocent lives.

The roots of all modern militant Islamic movements can be traced to one man, Abdul Wahab from Nejd in the Arabian Peninsula. He set out to ‘purify’ Islam, believing that Muslims had drifted away from true religion. Wahab’s followers destroyed many sacred sites that he
considered linked to idolatry. Attacking the arts for being frivolous and dangerous, Wahab sanctioned the rape, murder and plunder of those who refused to follow his injunctions. He was considered a heretic by most, for Mecca and Medina were then centres of contemplative Islam, inhabited by Sufis from all over the world.

In 1774-75, Wahab negotiated a deal with the then nomadic tribe of Saud, forebears of the current royal family, in exchange for support to their quest for political domination. Most Saudis reject the name Wahhabi; they either call themselves Muwahuddin — Unitarians — or Salafi, referring to salaf, the venerated companions of the Prophet. In this blinkered view, no other version of religious truth can exist.

This new face of Islam has nothing to do with Sufis, music, poetry, miracles or the countless devotional customs of Muslim cultures across the world.

Under the patronage of Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism went from strength to strength. Abul Ala Mawdudi, a journalist who translated the Quran outside the classical paradigms, propagated the Wahhabi ideology. He founded the political party Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan, making jihad central to Islamic discourse. Addressing non-Muslims as infidels, he grouped Muslims into ‘partial’ and ‘true’ Muslims. Mawdudi’s ideas of Islam as a revolutionary doctrine to take over governments and overturn the whole universal order deeply influenced Syed Qutub of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

These groups have been motivated by political upheavals and the rejection of traditional scholars. Syed Qutub’s brother happened to be among the teachers of Osama bin Laden.

The extremism now found in Mecca and Medina, the heartland of Islam, is the Wahhabi ideology that the Saudis have spent millions in promoting through their outreach programmes. There is no tolerance for Shias, Sunni Sufis or other Muslim traditions, leave alone non-Muslims.

Unfortunately, there is no collective Muslim protest against the Saudi regime for bulldozing graveyards, destroying the cultural and religious heritage of the holy cities, imposing a certain segregation of the sexes inside the Prophet’s mosque at Medina, radical sermons or distribution of radical literature outside Saudi mosques, many of them issuing calls for death to whoever they view as infidels or innovators of Islam.

The problem of Muslim extremism began in the Muslim world and the responsibility of resolving it lies with us.

The inability to present Islam as a peaceful religion is a collective failure of global Muslim communities. We could begin by increasing the decibel in condemning violence and sectarianism and standing up for women’s rights.

We should stop demonising the ‘other’ as infidels and show increased support for democratic movements in Muslim countries. It is time for the devout, silent and peace-loving Muslim majority to speak for Islam.

Let our voices be louder than the radical voices claiming to represent us.


The writer is a Delhi-based commentator.


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Sadia Dehlvi is a renowned Delhi based media person. She is a prominent face on prime time television debates dealing with the issues of Muslim communities.

A well-known columnist and writer, Dehlvi is frequently published in frontline Urdu, Hindi and English newspapers and magazines. She has been the editor of Bano, a popular woman’s journal in the Urdu language with the Shama group of Publications. Dehlvi has produced and scripted a number of documentaries and television programs.

For over thirty years Sadia Dehlvi has engaged in voicing concern on issues regarding heritage, culture, women and Muslim communities. She is currently working on a book on Delhi’s Sufi history. Her surname ‘Dehlvi” means someone from Delhi reflecting her family’s long association with Delhi

Who destroys our forests? The forest department!

Starvation killing jumbos

N D Shiva Kumar | TNN

Of 105 elephants that died in 2007-08, post-mortem of 22 was done after 10 to 25 days of death.

Due to the delay, between 2002 and 2008, the bodies of 23 elephants decomposed and the reason for deaths couldn’t be ascertained.

Five elephants died due to dehydration and starvation

new-picture-17

Bangalore: Elephants are starving to death.

Around 137 of them died over two years (2006-2008), and most due to starvation, dehydration and infection. This is a cause of concern as Karnataka has only 5,500-6,000 elephants.

Post-mortems have revealed that they died due to infection, diseases like peritonitis, diarrhoea, encephlyomyconditis, cardiac arrest, starvation and dehydration.

The number of deaths drastically increased after 2006. Between 2002 and 2006, 24 elephants died, 32 in 2006-07 and 105 in 2007-08.

Nobody cares for them

Of the 105 elephants that died in 2007-08, over 70% died before completing even half their lifespan, which is normally 55-60 years.

Also, 61 were below 20 years old and 21 between 21 and 30 years old.

Shockingly, forest department officials made no effort to find out the reasons for the outbreak of infection.

Displeasure over attitude of officials
The Public Accounts Committee led by Congress leader Siddaramaiah highlights these aspects in its report. The committee expressed shock and displeasure at the attitude of forest officials.

“It’s a serious issue of concern. The department made no efforts to find out the reasons for the outbreak of the epidemic. This is shocking.’’ The committee felt delay in the information to officials about elephants’ death was due to improper vigil (beat system).

Causes of deaths
Inadequate food and water holes and failure to manage and develop grassland were cited as major causes of death. The authorities registered 2,987 forest crimes between 2001 and 2008. Referring to this, the committee felt camps to prevent illegal hunting had not been set up properly.

More camps had been set up in areas less prone to illegal hunting and few camps in crime-infested areas. For long, animal rights activists have been asking the government to save elephants. It seems the effort is just not there.

Corrective measures
Study by Wildlife Society on reasons for major outbreak of epidemic and diseases Tighten beat system, conduct postmortem of dead animals and record reasons for death Ensure speedy disposal of pending cases

No peace even in death

Of 105 elephants that died in 2007-08, post-mortem of 22 was done after 10 to 25 days of death.

Due to the delay, between 2002 and 2008, the bodies of 23 elephants decomposed and the reason for deaths couldn’t be ascertained.

Five elephants died due to dehydration and starvation

Forest dept felled twice

CAG REPORT REVEALS LAPSES

IN FOLLOWING CONSERVATION ACT.

PAC REPORT SLAMS OFFICIALS FOR RISE IN ELEPHANT DEATHS

Jayashree Nandi | TNN

Bangalore: Who destroys our forests? The forest department!

The latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has revealed non-compliance of the administration of Forest Conservation Act, 1980 by the forest department, which has led to several hundred hectares of forest land diverted for non-forest use.

Shockingly, compensatory reforestation has not been carried out on 5,73,297 acres in Karnataka and Rs 17.09 crore fine has not been recovered from 23 user agencies.

Forest land of 483.52 acres were transferred by the revenue department without the Centre’s approval. Though renewal of lease in two cases was rejected by them, 24.09 hectares were not resumed. In 22 other cases, proposals of renewals of lease were not sent to the Centre by the PCCF despite lapse of 1 to 45 years!

And if this was not enough, the records in the forest department at Bangalore, Shimoga, Chikmagalur, Sirsi and nine other divisions headed by DCFs were checked by the auditor general’s office.

Seven user agencies had sought approval for utilization of 342.35 hectares for non-forest purposes. But over 391.71 hectares of forest land were utilized prior to obtaining an approval from the government.

This included 49.36 hectares utilized in excess of that approved for diversion in two cases in Bidar and Mangalore.

Way off the mark

In 19 cases of diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes like irrigation, wind power, mining, road work and others involving an area of 3,198 hectares, compliance with conditions by Centre were not ensured despite a lapse of 2 to 27 years from the date of clearance.

LAND DRAIN

Of 594.10 hectares of forest land approved (December 1995 to September 1996) for settlement of displaced families of Sea Bird project in Karwar, only 182.94 hectares utilized

Out of balance area of 411.16 hectares, 277 hectares where felling was done, reforested subsequently at Rs 45.49 lakh without resuming land

Centre not informed

Forest land of 483.52 acres were transferred by the revenue department without the Centre’s approval

In 22 cases, proposals to renew lease were not sent to the Centre by the PCCF despite lapse of 1 to 45 years