Mamta and Amar Singh dividing the country communally

“Ms Banerjee said she would resign from politics if it was proved that the Batla House shootout was not a fake encounter.” It is time that she moved out of politics and serve our mere mortals from Singur to Jamia.

Amar Singh, can do no better than look beyond the BJP, and ironically was mouth-tied in why he was still with the congress even though he was standing and questioning the congress for having conducting the fake encounter. Well, here is his lame argument, “Mr Singh sought to clarify to the large Muslim crowd that his alliance with the Congress did not mean that his party endorsed on the policies of the ruling party

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National Portal on Environment launched by Sam Pitroda, chair National Knowledge Commission

  • Portal designed and built by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), with support from the National Knowledge Commission
  • A one-stop shop for all information and resources on environment and development. An important step ahead for the environmental movement
  • Built on open source, to enable flow of easy-to-use information from sources across the country and to make that information available in the public domain
  • A virtual resource repository of all relevant government information and a common platform for information of government and civil society

New Delhi, August 11, 2008: “If this is the age of environment, then information will be the key to change – in our lifestyle, in policy and in practice – and this we have conceived of the India Environment Portal”, says Sam Pitroda, chair of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC).

The portal, is a one-stop shop for all that you want to know about environment and development issues.

“Our politics is overt: to build open, networked and informed societies, who can use knowledge to make change. This is why we have also built the India Environment Portal on an open-source platform and made proprietary information held by us available and open” explains Sunita Narain, director of the Centre for Science and Environment, the organization, which has initiated the Portal.

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The portal can be seen at: www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in ; It has been developed using “Drupal” open source content management system (CMS) by Srijan Technologies (www.srijan.in).

“You’re either with us or against us” : A police officer’s plea

This article http://www.indianexpress.com/news/You-re-either-with-us-or-against-us/368483 – an article by an IPS officer defining how the police has a “thankless job” and has to work with either conspiracy theories or flak.

The title of the article – “You’re either with us or against us” – rather sadly, defines the more highlighted muslim mindset, which is mostly a result of third-grade leadership by people like the Imam Bukhari who end up lowering the debate on such national issues, as well as, the intellect of a large sections of the muslim community.

Through our earlier post by Arif Mohammed Khan, we’re hoping to raise the level of this debate, and invite the moderate and sane muslim voice, which is not coming up, or not allowed to come up. A simple reference to the comments posted by muslims on this article at Indian Express’s site, is proof that the moderate and majority of educated muslim voice differs with what the media is highlighting, and what is heard and believed in most of India by Hindus.

We believe there is hope, and all of us, need to work hard in making this sane voice of the general educated muslim heard – a lot more, and a lot louder.

——— The article as appear in Indian Express ————–

Inspector M.C. Sharma of the Delhi Police succumbed to injuries on September 19, after an encounter that also resulted in the deaths of two terrorist suspects.An officer with multiple awards for gallantry, Inspector Sharma died a martyr for the nation.

As a police officer, what is especially distressing to see were media reports about locals protesting the episode as another fake encounter. They were joined by social organisations and NGOs, then vice-chancellors and Union ministers, and now the mainstream media is carrying stories of how it doesn’t all add up. This episode covers all the professional dilemmas that face our police forces as we attempt to take on one of the most significant and well-organised threats to internal security. There is no denying that the modern Indian state faces a very peculiar problem with militant Islamism, especially the home-grown variety. The strategy conventionally used to fight terrorism have to deftly negotiate the minefield that is the politics of religious identity in India. When every act of commission and omission by the police is analysed through the lens of communal politics then the already difficult task of fighting terrorism becomes well nigh impossible.

Listen to the questions being raised one despairs for the fate of a civil society that is unable to distinguish between its violators and defenders. Why were two terrorists killed? Why was one arrested? Why and how did two of them escape? Why did Inspector Sharma die? Why wasn’t he wearing a bulletproof jacket? Let us add up the worst of the conspiracy theories and we get the following scenario. Delhi Police was under pressure from the media and the Government to do something. So they made elaborate plans. A house was rented in a Muslim locality close to a mosque. Three innocent youths were picked up from different places and brought there at some unspecified time which would be corroborated by a ‘local eye witness’. Then two of them were shot dead and the third was arrested so he could testify as an eyewitness against the cops in the murder case that ought to be registered against Sharma and his team. To make the story more believable Sharma was shot dead by his own colleagues. How paranoid does one have to be to believe this theory?We will believe the worst about our men in khaki based on conjecture and propaganda because it is our democratic right and duty not to trust them. And the terrorists whose murderous deeds have been splattered across our TV screens deserve all the benefit of the doubt.It seems to me that the life or death of a policeman is the cheapest commodity in our public life. Unfortunately due to a shameful post-Independence history where the police were not firm with dealing with communal violence and often became a direct party to them, and because of endemic corruption and incompetence and resource constraints, our credibility as upholder of the law stands badly dented. There can be no denying that the real and perceived bias of the police apparatus in India has directly contributed to creating a generation of radicalised Muslim youth. But what is equally obvious is that they are now linked to a transnational militant ideology that aims to weave together the narrative of global revenge for local injustices. Getting rid of this institutional bias is important to win the trust of all minorities though it will not wean back those already radicalised.

There is no denying that the national response to jihadist Terror would entail making difficult and decisive choices, not least between the need for public safety and civil liberties. But one hopes that before it is too late, our civil society can find it within itself to trust the professional police leadership with a key role. Police forces all over the country would need to be backed by a cross party political consensus and a nationwide mandate for action. Perhaps even the constitutional contours of our federal structure would also need to change. Can a national threat be met by a piecemeal response? Our capabilities for targeted surveillance and general monitoring will need to improve, minorities need to be recruited, language skills improved, hitherto absent analytical and profiling capabilities developed and inter agency co-operation regardless of the political differences, would have to become second nature.

Like any other proud police officer I salute the sacrifice of Inspector Sharma. I am sure that he knew, like all of us do, that his khaki uniform may one day ask him to lay down his life in the line of duty. But I am equally, and sadly, sure that the significance of his sacrifice lies immersed with his ashes.

“Who Hijacked Jamia” : A different muslim perspective on the issue

This is a wonderful article by Arif Mohammed Khan, citing the poor leadership offered to the Muslim community from self-proclaimed muslim bodies such as the Personal Law Board, Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat and Jamaat-e-Islami. These organisations he says hijack the core muslim agenda, often backed by shameless political patronage, just as had happened in the Shah Bano case.

Khan talks about the boycott of sane voices in the muslim community such as Mushirul Hasan, who was boycotted for expressing his opinion that banning Satanic Verses would only increase its sales. Ofcourse this same fundamentalism has entered the hindu mindset as well now.

Khan goes on to seal the case with:

The most important Muslim organisation operating from the Jamia neighborhood is the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and its affiliates. During their agitation against the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Shah Bano case, the members of AIMPLB made public exhortations to break the legs of Muslims who differed with their stand. Their supporters went to the extent of suggesting that Supreme Court judges are not competent to interpret Muslim personal law….
Such activities of these Muslim outfits are as much a source of consternation to common Muslims as they are to other Indians. Occasionally some Muslims raise their voice but they lose nerve when they see the political promiscuity and influence enjoyed by these extremist elements.

We would invite the muslim readers of this article (or the artile at Indian Express http://www.indianexpress.com/news/look-who-hijacked-jamia/367985/), who agree broadly with the case Mr. Khan presents , to comment and have your opinion heard. This would help raise the level of discourse on what the muslim community feels about the current Jamia Nagar case, and in general on the agenda of the conspiracy theorists who are abound, and mostly whose voices are heard.

——— The article as appear in Indian Express ————–

“And fear tumult or oppression, which affects not in particular only those of you who do wrong. And know that God is strict in punishment.” (Quran, 8.25)Ibn Katheer commenting on this verse has quoted a Prophetic tradition saying that “if a people, despite being strong and numerous, do nothing to stop those men among them who do wrong, then they will be surrounded with punishment”.

History is full of instances showing how a small group of people or individuals by their odious acts have inconvenienced the communities they belong to.

Today the Muslims as a community are passing through a difficult period on account of the activities of terrorists who shamelessly use religion to justify their crimes.

A common Muslim, like his compatriots, is busy earning his daily bread and raising the family. With increased awakening about modern education, good numbers of Muslim families from rural areas have moved to urban centres to ensure education for their wards. A casual survey of the families living in Jamia Nagar will show that the majority of them hail from villages and depend for their income on rural sources. In many cases it is only the mothers and children who are living here, while the men spend most of their time in native places to arrange the necessary means for the family to carry on in Delhi. Their only concern is a safe and peaceful environment congenial for academic pursuit.On the other hand, attracted by this large population, more than two dozen Muslim outfits have established themselves in this neighbourhood taking upon them the responsibility to lead and organise the religious and social life of the community. They include organisations like the Personal Law Board, Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat and Jamaat-e-Islami. None of these organisations is known for promoting social reform or education. Most of the time they are competing with each other in crying wolf and pressing the need to fight against imagined threats to the Muslim religion and identity. Occasionally they also succeed in securing positions of power for their nominees and this political patronage helps them to widen their network in the community.

If we look at some important events of the past then an idea can be formed about the activities and mindset that is promoted by these organisations.

After the official ban on The Satanic Verses, Mushirul Hasan, the present vice chancellor and then teacher in the history department of Jamia, said in an interview to a weekly that a ban on the book would only boost its sales and increase the circulation of the objectionable writing. His remarks were not in support of the book, its contents or the writer, yet they provoked an angry and violent protest inside the campus. The Muslim outfits worked overtime to instigate and excite the feelings resulting in a situation where despite continuing on the rolls of the university Mushirul Hasan could not enter the campus for more than three long years.During the war in Afghanistan, public expressions of solidarity with Osama bin Laden were made and posters in his support were pasted in the area by some self-appointed champions of Muslim interests. This was done despite the knowledge that Osama and Al-Qaeda were directly involved in Terror activities in Kashmir. I remember having met many Muslims from Jamia Nagar who expressed their utter indignation over the episode and felt sorry for not being able to oppose these undesirable activities.

In 1990, Prof Mushirul Haq, the vice chancellor of Kashmir University, was killed by terrorists in Srinagar. Since he was an old teacher of Jamia, his burial took place inside the campus. As an academician I had held him in great esteem and during the Shah Bano controversy had sought his opinion on several occasions. I went to attend his last rites and walked almost a kilometre with the funeral procession. After reaching the burial ground suddenly the lights went out and in that darkness I was attacked with an iron rod, causing head injury. Later, inquiries revealed that the students who had organised the blackout and attack belonged to the Jamaat-e-Islami. It is important to recall that the banned organisation, SIMI, was mostly manned by young activists inspired by philosophies like that of the Jamaat-e-Islami.

The other organisation with headquarters in this area is Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat. On the slightest provocation they would call for a boycott of celebrations of Independence Day or Republic Day giving rise to communal tension. It is true that on every occasion they had withdrawn the calls, but that did not help in lessening the tension.

The most important Muslim organisation operating from the Jamia neighborhood is the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and its affiliates. During their agitation against the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Shah Bano case, the members of AIMPLB made public exhortations to break the legs of Muslims who differed with their stand. Their supporters went to the extent of suggesting that Supreme Court judges are not competent to interpret Muslim personal law.It is important to recall that during parliamentary discussion of the bill that was brought in to negate the impact of the Supreme Court judgment, almost every minister who rose to defend the measure referred to the apprehensions of threats to law and order arising on account of an aggressive and violent agitation.

Such activities of these Muslim outfits are as much a source of consternation to common Muslims as they are to other Indians. Occasionally some Muslims raise their voice but they lose nerve when they see the political promiscuity and influence enjoyed by these extremist elements.

The establishment must realise that the police can fight terrorists, not terrorism. Terrorism can be contained only by a strong political will that identifies and isolates individuals and organisations promoting a violent mindset and does not favour them with political patronage.

Aurangzeb :: The worst thing to happen to the “Idea of India”

There is serious evidence, on going through the Quran, that its ‘as it is’ and ‘non-contextual’ (of that period and situation) interpretation can, and evidently has, led to complete intolerance of Islam over other faiths and people following those faiths. This is a certainly one of the most important causes of terrorism globally.

*There is no other true way*

One key point that comes out during discussions with orthodox muslims is the fact that they believe there can be no other true interpretation of God, and the purpose of life, than the one they have as has been offered by Muhammad. Everyone else is wrong, they say, and there is no room for Self-inquiry, with the possibility of this leading to new answers. Answers are all laid out already – and simply need to be followed.

While a lot of other religions and intra-religious faiths within hinduism as well, take such a hard stance to spiritual pursuits of other people, the trouble arises when this difference in world-views (or God-views) reaches the point of intolerance of the other, and precipitates as aggression and violence.

This has been the case in both Islam and Christianity, and from what I know, in the Jewish faith as well. This has happened in the past with some of India’s Hindu kings as well, who were completely intolerant to Buddhism and Buddhists, and ordered their persecution. However, stories of such kings found doing circles in Srilankan and Tibetan Buddhist monks “seems to be” (and I welcome my readers to help me correct my knowledge of history) at best exaggerated.

Purpose of this article

I write this to help build religious harmony and tolerance between Islam and Hindusim in India. I will attempt to show reason on why muslims need to with hard look at history, thus needing to soften their stand on Babri Masjid/Ram Janmabhoomi, Kashi Vishwanath and other such key temple complexes which are the central flash-points of conflict currently in India.

The purpose of this article is invite muslim leaders and secular thinkers, to put themselves in the shoes of hindus, and then stand in judgment of their popular sentiment about Babri Masjid and other similar examples. Then

  • an opportunity for dialogue between the two communities can open up, on how to move forward
  • we can say, what was done in the past was shameful and against Islam
  • there will be an opportunity with muslims to soften their stand possibly, leading to voluntary relocation of some of the mosques standing in place of these temples or occupying, whether in use or not
  • a message to the hindus can go – that they need not repeat the same nonsense

Aurangzeb

Aurangzeb, in this discussion, in context of India, stands head and shoulders above all muslim invaders, kings and zealots who came to India plundering its resources, people, temples, lifestyles and destroying its social and spiritual fabric.

Proof of such destruction of Hindu temples across the region

It is often pointed out that no such thing was done by Aurangzeb, and that this version of history is contrived and incorrect to push forward the saffronisation agenda.

I recently came across a blog on Aurangzeb and the mess he created in India. The research done by Francois Gautier on Aurangzeb is based on farhans (original edicts) by Aurangzeb, preserved at the Bikaner Museum in Rajasthan.

His research led to a series of paintings and sketches to visually represent the destruction of hindu temples, their forced and coercive conversions, the brutal dismemberment of his enemies, and imposing strict interpretations of Islam leading to killing of philosophers and ban on music. Here are some links of these exhibits:

Exhibit No. 2: Prince Dara Shukoh translating the Upanishads

Exhibit No. 3: Scene of Captive Dara being paraded in Delhi

Exhibit No. 4: Dara Shukoh’s farcical trial and verdict

Exhibit No. 6: Keshava Rai Temple. “Even to look at a temple is a sin for a Musalman”, Aurangzeb

Exhibit No. 7: Demolition of Kalka’s Temple – I. Siyah Waqa’i- Darbar Regnal Year 10, Rabi I, 23 / 3 September 1667

Exhibit No. 8: Demolition of Kalka Temple II. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i-Mu‘alla Julus 10, Rabi II 3 / 12 September 1667

Exhibit No. 9: General Order for the Destruction of Temples. (9th April 1669)

Exhibit No. 11: Demolition of the temple of Viswanath (Banaras). August 1669 A.D.

Exhibit No. 12 i – ii – iii : “During this month of Ramzan (1080 A.H./January-February 1670) ….. the Emperor ….. The reviver of the Faith of the Prophet issued orders for the demolition of the Dehra of Keshava Rai in Mathura. In a short time the destruction of this strong foundation of infidelity was accomplished and on its site a lofty mosque was built. ….. the idols large and small of the temple were brought to Agra and buried under the steps of the mosque of Begum Sahib” (Maasir-i- ‘Alamgiri, 95-96); http://according-to-mughal-records.blogspot.com/2008/06/exhibit-no_6075.html, http://according-to-mughal-records.blogspot.com/2008/06/exhibit-no_4763.html

Exhibit No. 13: Demolition of Keshava Rai temple at Mathura. (13th January – 11th February 1670)

Exhibit No. 14: Demolition of Somnath temple

Exhibit No. 16: Reimposition of Jizyah by Aurangzeb. (2nd April 1679)

Exhibit No. 17: “Burial of Music”. The musicians, wailing and lamenting carry the ‘bier’ of music in Aurangzeb’s presence. “Bury it so deep that no sound or echo of it may rise again”, Aurangzeb, (Muntakhab-al Lubab, p.213)

Exhibit No.19: Aurangzeb orders cart-loads of idols brought from Jodhpur to be cast under the steps of Jama Masjid. (May 1679)

Exhibit No. 20: Demolition of Jagannath Rai (Jagdish Temple), Udaipur and its brave defence. R.Y. 23rd of Aurangzeb’s reign (26th September 1679 – 14th September 1680)

Exhibit No. 22: Destruction of sixty-three temples at Chittor. On Monday, the 22nd February /1st Safar, the Emperor went to see Chittor; by his order sixty-three (63) temples of the place were destroyed

Exhibit No. 23: Orders for the destruction of temples on the bank of Maharana’s lake, Udaipur. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i-Mu’alla Julus 23, Zilqad 29 / 23rd December 1679

Exhibit No. 24: Orders for the demolition of Jagannath Temple, Orissa. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus 24, Jamadi I, 23 / 1st June 1681

Exhibit No. 25: Large scale destruction of temples in the environs of Udaipur (January 1680)

Exhibit No. 26: All the temples on the way to be destroyed. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar Julus 25, Ramzan 18 / 21st September 1681

Exhibit No. 27: Demolition of Bindu-Madhav Temple at Banaras. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus 26, Ramzan 20 / 13 September 1682

Exhibit No. 28: Problem of converting closed temples into mosques in Burhanpur district. Siyaha Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla R.Yr. 25, Shawwal 10 / 13th October 1681

Exhibit No. 29: Order for demolition of the temple at Goner (Amber). Siyaha Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 24, Rabi I, 17 / 28th March 1686

Exhibit No. 30: Demolition of the Jagdish temple at Goner (Amber) – II. Siyaha Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 24, Jamadi I, 5 / 14th May 1686

Exhibit No. 31: Muslims exempted from paying Zakat Siyah. Akhbart-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Zilqad 2 / 16th April 1667

Exhibit No. 32: Restriction on atishbazi. Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus 10, Shawwal 24 / April 9th 1667

Exhibit No. 33: Musalmans to replace Hindu officials as cure for ineffectiveness of prayers. Siyah Waqai Darbar Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Muharram 18 / 1st July 1667

Exhibit No. 34: Hindu Chowkinavis and Amins of the Haft-chowkis to be replaced by the Musalmans. Akhbarat Dargah-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 9, Jamadi II, 28 / 15th December 1666

Exhibit No. 39: Aurangzeb orders the execution of Sarmad, a Jewish Armenian Philosopher who accepted Islam but stood for freedom of conscience.

Exhibit No. 40: Large number of conversions by Faujdar, Bithur. Grant of saropas and cash sanctioned by Aurangzeb. Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Shawwal 26 / 11th April 1667

Exhibit No. 41: Coercion in Conversion – Case of the chief of Manoharpur. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus 24, Jamadi I, 7 / 16th May 1681

There is also a history paper written by Rajiv Verma on Destruction of Hindu Temples by Aurangzeb, which provides historical references.

A message to the readers

This is not meant to be a hate article.

This is a result of a dialogue between an orthodox muslim friend who during our series of discussions on Islam and Hindusim, denied that there was any such things done by Aurangzeb. It is such denial which leads to nonacceptance of each other’s anxieties. Gandhi used to say that the ability of hindus and muslims would be determined by the understanding they can have for each others anxieties.

I believe the Hindus have no real scars and have moved on, and moved forward with many things (which is a great thing ofcourse), yet there are some sensitive points in memory like Babri Masjid, which are a result of popular sentiment of people associated with someone who is as dear to the Hindus as Muhammad is to Muslims.

There needs to be movement forward by muslims in showing tolerance and acceptance now.

Extending Article 370 beyond Kashmir; Could this be a solution?

n 2004 my friend and mentor, Prasanna Lal Das, wrote an article called “Article 370 – a case to extend it beyond Kashmir“, and ofcourse as most Indians do, I was out of my wits on reading the title. To me Article 370 was clearly another case of appeasement of “kashmiri muslims”. I never read the article.

An article on Kashmir stating the problem

Today, I caught up on an article in the Indian Express titled “Beyond highway of peace” (http://www.indianexpress.com/story/349899.html; 18 August, 2008 ) which highlights a few points.

Separatist Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, however, said the mass protests have not surprised him. “We always saw it coming,” he said. “Amarnath land row might be the immediate cause, but the level of anger is the result of the long pent up disillusionment with New Delhi’s status quo policies,” he said.

…“New Delhi talks to us when the situation is really bad here. And when there is apparent peace, they ignore us,” he said.

It is a fact that the Centre and its various agencies on ground in Kashmir had been extremely complacent after the recent drop in militant violence and a surge in mainstream political activity.

My observations on the article

The article ofcourse like most of those appearing in media, states the problem superficially, and for that reason cannot, and does not, offer any solution.

The following few points, however, occur to me on reading this article:

  • The centre becomes complacent when things are going well, instead of constantly keeping on its toes, and regularly engaging people (or their representatives and leaders; elected or even self-appointed) in discussions and creating mini agreements
  • They are happy in finding simple answers to problems which are often coloured with their worldview (which can be rather outdated in the evolving human race) of how things *should be* instead of *how it is in reality*
  • These views are often “taught” to the politicians rather then based on *critical thinking*, *dialogue*, and *understanding people’s anxieties*

Liberating people; self-organising groups; moving beyond conventional and easy categories of success

As I have matured and grown in my spiritual pursuits, I have developed a somewhat different outlook to the reason for conflicts and in general ways of management. I have increasingly become a die-hard fan of democracy at workplace, which traditionally has been very centrally controlled and managed. Ideas of small self-organising groups of people working towards common “agreed” goals, have inspired me over the last few years. I have observed people, driven from their own collective self-interest, acting extremely responsibly and much beyond their normal abilities. I have noticed this at my workplace.

Yet, it is true that some people often are not mature enough to see the larger picture, and may not appreciate the values propagated in democratic and self-organising setups; or those who are unable to raise their mental make-up, and can remain stuck in shallow self-centered, and *taught* behaviour. These people are often not ones who can engage in *radical thinking*. Yet, these people are fewer in numbers, in my experience. Most people are not trained to think and question, in our society; however, most of these people can be inspired by greater causes of common collective long-term good.

This is the opportunity that the politicians have. They need to constantly work in liberating people, engaging them in inspired action, and training them radical thinking and questioning – doing all these things themselves. And this is where the problem lies – most of our politicians are not trained in experimenting, and in moving beyond their conventional ‘easy’ categories of answers.

Coming back to Prasanna’s article

On reading his article which presents a case to extend Article 370 beyond Kashmir to all of India’s states, is completely based on values of federalism, and liberating people, allowing them to self-determine their own rules, and how they would like to live their lives.

Gandhi ofcourse, was a big propagator of local self-determination, down to the village level, with complete ownership of local resources with the people of the region.

I feel, this is the answer to Kashmir’s, and in general, all of India’s problems; and the world’s as well.

Once again, the framework of this federalism must propagate some central core modern spiritual, humanist and civic values such as *liberty*, *equal opportunity*, *secularism* and *non-violence*. These values must be accessible and applicable to all citizens irrespective of race, religion or gender. The state must constantly train and engage leaders in dialogue and training, in action based on inspiration, and, in questioning and radical thinking. With these, the collective consciousness of people could be raised, and with it the risk of degeneration of federal values, and other motivated self-interests of local leaders taking over, is minimised.

Some quotes from Prasanna’s extremely inspiring article:

Article 370, unwittingly perhaps considering its historical circumstances, may be the brightest glint of federal expression in the Indian constitution, which otherwise remains largely unitary in character. Large sections of the Indian population (and regions that contain them) thus feel increasingly marginalized from the ‘mainstream’, and seemingly disparate phenomenon like recent disturbances in the northeast, the girding of heartland India by naxalites, the trivialization of the parliamentary process, and paradoxically enough, the continuing impasse in Jammu & Kashmir, may well be said to spring from the centralized nature of governance in India which concentrates power in the hands of a few organized interest groups and leaves the average citizen with only symbols of democratic participation like ritualized elections and awe-inspiring, monumental edifices where elected representatives apparently serve the people. Article 370, minus its current imperfections, may well be the harbinger of a ‘new India.’

it may be time to view the article in a larger national context. Does the article offer any guidelines to the governing system in the rest of India? Is there greater merit in the rest of India adopting some of the salient features of the article than in denouncing it largely on the grounds of ‘we don’t have it, so shouldn’t she’? Should we choose to be frogs in a well pulling each other down, or is it time to climb out of the holes we have dug for ourselves, and take a look at the larger world around?

The article recognizes that India is a diverse country and that a region may have special needs which may or may not be in consonance with the needs of the rest of the country. It thus leaves discretionary powers with the state and subjects all central laws/amendments to state approval before they can be implemented in a state. It transfers accountability and power to the state government in virtually all matters except those that deal with the integrity of the Indian union, and its international relationships.

Make no mistake; Article 370 was not formed to lay down the principles of center-state relationships or to directly solve the problem described above. It isn’t thus either exhaustive enough or extensive enough to cover the gamut of issues that go into center-state relations. It however does provide the springboard necessary to begin questioning the unitary model we have chosen to adopt in the whole country, bar Kashmir. And if it can work in Kashmir, why can it not work in the rest of the country too?

The other more fundamental problem with Article 370 is its state-centric, monolithic view of autonomy and local governance. In keeping with the overall unitary spirit of the constitution, the article does little to promote grassroots governance and concentrates all significant powers in the hands of the state government. The version of autonomy it thus creates is in essence a majoritarian one – it cloaks a centralized mode of governance under the garb of an autonomous one. Kashmir can thus never be truly autonomous unless it itself allows power to percolate downwards to the people. In its current avatar, Article 370 is largely a sham, and its fundamental centralizing proclivities must be given a thorough makeover before the article can truly become a template for other states.

He also puts in a word of caution, which I believe vindicates my stand of a framework which allows for common accepted civic, humanist and spiritual values of *liberty*, *equal opportunity*, *secularism* and *non-violence*, and also the need for constant training, dialogue and engagement in radical and critical thinking.

A more pertinent concern is perhaps the ability of the states to do justice to increased power, and handle it responsibly. Unfortunately, recent Indian constitutional history isn’t exactly littered with examples of farsightedness shown by states – their record is patchy at best, and downright shoddy in reality. In fact, a case may be made that but for central intervention and guidance, most Indian states, driven by narrow, parochial concerns, would have descended into anarchy a long time ago. Possibly the worst record in this regard is that of the Jammu & Kashmir legislature itself, which has shown a remarkable ability to shoot itself in the foot consistently. The recently proposed bill debarring Kashmiri women from property rights on marriage to ‘outsiders’, the legislature’s refusal to accept the amendment limiting the size of state ministries to 15% of the total elected strength, and its long standing refusal to recognize Anglo-Indians and other minorities in the state are just three examples of legislation which persistently refuses to look beyond the state. What guarantees are there that other states shan’t do the same, and perhaps worse?

The answer to both questions lies in the inchoate nature of Article 370, and in its flawed, single-state focused implementation. As stated earlier, the article is not designed to guide center-state relations, but in the case of Jammu & Kashmir, it does just that. Limiting the article to one state however produces one very significant consequence – it allows Jammu & Kashmir to create discriminatory legislation without fear of consequence (as no other state is in a position to answer it in the same coin).

And the recommendation to not seek easy answers, but to continually challenge our thinking:

At the end however, the question about India’s secular fabric will remain – will expanding the article to the entire country send wrong signals to minority communities in India? This is the most morally challenging part of the debate because like it or not, religion and religious emotions are inextricably tied to the history of the question. Needless to say, the government must be steadfastly secular in its implementation of federalism in India, and religious leaders must indubitably play an important part in the process, but there are no easy answers to the question. *The time may however have come to move away from the politics of easy answers.*

I Myself am Heav’n and Hell :: Omar Khayyam

I found this couplet from Omar Khayyam particularly beautiful and in line with mysticism in nearly all the world’s religions. To create a better world, and find a new spirituality for us, this is a better pursuit rather as opposed to fighting on theology, which is always open to interpretation.

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I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And by and by my Soul return’d to me,
And answer’d “I Myself am Heav’n and Hell :”

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Free Muslims Coalition :: a new way forward for muslims

I came across this very good website about Free and moderate Muslims working globally towards creation of a secular and democratic middle east, including Saudi Arabia.

Their website is: http://www.freemuslims.org/.

I quote several positions from their website which are very inspiring, healing and I believe progressive, thus leading to steps to create a better a world:

  • The Free Muslims Coalition believes that the Koran only provides general principles of governance which leaves the faithful with substantial flexibility to modernize popular Muslim practices and beliefs.
  • The Free Muslims cautions that imposing democracy on the Middle East without first promoting secularism and destroying terrorism may lead to the creation of Islamic extremist states that will ultimately reject the democracy that brings them to power.
  • The Free Muslims believes that fundamentalist Islamic terror represents one of the most lethal threats to the stability of the civilized world. There is no room for terrorism in the modern world…

We would be happy to help create its first chapter in India.