Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nikkamma number 1

First, I want to assert that I am not a blind supporter of Manmohan Singh. How could I love a man who openly declares his love for George Bush and who has stooped low to get an autograph of Obama! But, nevertheless, I didn't like the way he was ridiculed, scolded and derided by Luh purush L K Advani. The choice of the word Nikkamma was in bad taste. Manmohan Singh may have played with the destiny of the nation in bonding with USA. But to call him Nikkamma is different.

All these days, weeks and months the scathing comment by L K Advani never faded away. Now I was pleased to hear it from Khushwant Singh. Oh! what a reply it is! I enjoyed it. Each and every word of it.

Dr. Ajmal sent it to me. Thank you, Dr. Ajmal!!

Now read the story! It was published here and here.

Nikkamma number 1

By Khushwant Singh

Like millions, I watched Mohan Bhagwat’s press conference on TV. He is the head of the RSS; the BJP is the progenyNikkamma number 1 of the RSS. The BJP leaders had a bitter fallout and are looking for guidance from one who now represents their founding father.
Bhagwat did not commit himself to anything specific. Like any father would, he told his squabbling children to settle their differences between themselves, without involving him. However, he did express the opinion that it was time the BJP retired its old leaders and infused younger blood in the party. He did not name anyone, but it was obvious who he meant. That his voice counts a lot was proved by the fact that the next day most of the top leaders of the party, including L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu went to call on him to get his aasheervad — blessings.
It can be assumed that the one man almost certainly to be asked to step down will be L.K. Advani. He should have left the political scene in a blaze of glory, but now not many tears will be shed for him. And for good reasons. Did he ever regret the role he played in the demolition of the Babri Masjid? If he did, as he claims, why did he not tender an apology? Did he regret the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat? If so, why did he protect Narendra Modi from being sacked as Prime Minister Vajpayee evidently wanted to do? Is it possible that as home minister he did not know of Jaswant Singh’s mission to Kandahar to swap three jehadi militants for 150-odd Indians held hostage in hostile territory? There cannot be an iota of truth in his statement that he knew nothing about Jaswant’s mission till it was over.
An important omission in the analysis of the rapid decline of the BJP is the role of the RSS. The BJP took its ideology from the RSS. Islamophobia was its motivating factor as it was of militant right-wing organisations like the Shiv Sena and Ram Sena. An increasing number of people no longer subscribe to this ideology. Membership of these parties has dwindled.
Mohan Bhagwat’s assertion that the RSS includes members of the minority communities, including Muslims, has to be taken with a large dose of salt. While he decides on replacements for Advani and Rajnath Singh, he should also take a closer look at the factors which have contributed to peoples’ disenchantment with what all these parties stand for and the readiness with which they resort to violence to achieve their ends.
I have no regret over Advani’s discomfiture and imminent fadeout from national politics. He has done grievous harm to our efforts to create a truly secular India. He described Manmohan Singh as nikamma — useless. It so happens, Manmohan is still much in use, while Advani’s own erstwhile colleagues have pronounced him as of no use any longer. It is as comic a tragedy as any we have witnessed in recent times.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

16 things you can do on the Night of Power

16 things you can do on the Night of Power

Abdul Malik Mujahid

Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Power) is described in the Quran as, "better than a thousand months" (97:3). Any action done on this night such as reciting the Quran, remembering Allah, etc. is better than acting for one thousand months which do not contain the night of Qadr.

Allah's Messenger used to exert himself in devotion during the last ten nights to a greater extent than at any other time." (Muslim). Allah's peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet.

Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, related that the Prophet said: Look for Laylatul Qadr on an odd-numbered night during the last ten nights of Ramadan (Bukhari).

The Prophet said: "Whoever prays during the night of Qadr with faith and hoping for its reward will have all of his previous sins forgiven." (Bukhari and Muslim recorded from Abu Huraira).

Here are some tips of things we can do on the Night of Power and the time before and after it.

1. Take a vacation for Allah

We take a break from our jobs for almost everything in life. Why not this time to focus on worshiping and thanking our Creator.

If this is not possible at least take a few days off if you can. This can make it easier to stay awake at night to do extra Ibadah, not having to worry about getting to work the next day.

It will also facilitate doing Itikaf.

2. Do Itikaf

It was a practice of the Prophet to spend the last ten days and nights of Ramadan in the masjid for Itikaf.

Those in Itikaf stay in the masjid all this time, performing various forms of zikr (the remembrance of Allah), like doing extra Salat, recitation and study of the Quran. They do not go outside the masjid except in case of emergencies, therefore, they sleep in the masjid. Their families or the masjid administration takes care of their food needs.

Itikaf of a shorter period of time, like one night, a day or a couple of days is encouraged as well.

3. Make this special Dua

Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said: I asked the Messenger of Allah: 'O Messenger of Allah, if I know what night is the night of Qadr, what should I say during it?' He said: 'Say: O Allah, You are pardoning and You love to pardon, so pardon me.' "(Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and Tirmidhi).

The transliteration of this Dua is "Allahumma innaka `afuwwun tuhibbul `afwa fa`fu `annee"

4. Recite the Quran

Perhaps you can choose Surahs or passages from the Quran which you have heard in Tarawih this past Ramadan to recite.

If you attend a class where the recitation of the Quran is taught, this is a great time to put your knowledge into practice.

5. Reflect on the meaning of the Quran

Choose the latest Surah or Surahs you've heard in Tarawih and read their translation and Tafseer. Then think deeply about their meaning and how it affects you on a personal level.

(If you want to study the Quran with more understanding, check out Way to the Quran and Access to Quranic Arabic.

6. Get your sins wiped out

Abu Huraira narrated that the Messenger said: Whoever stands (in prayer) in Laylatul Qadr while nourishing his faith with self-evaluation, expecting reward from Allah, will have all of his previous sins forgiven. [Bukhari and Muslim).

Don't just pray using the shorter Surahs that you know. Try to make your prayers longer, deeper and meaningful. If you are familiar with longer Surahs, read the translation and explanation and then pray reciting these Surahs, carefully reflecting on the meaning while you pray.

Even if you are only familiar with the shorter Surahs, read the translation and explanation beforehand, and then pray reflecting on the message of the Surahs.

This is a good way to develop the habit of concentration, even in regular prayers, where many of us tend to be fidgety and/or easily distracted.

7. Make a personal Dua list.

Ask yourself what you really want from Allah. Make a list of each and everything, no matter how small or how big it is, whether it deals with this world or not. Allah loves to hear from us. Once this list is ready, you can do three things:

• Ask Allah to give you those things
• Think about what actions you have taken to get those things
• Develop a work plan to get those things in future.

8. Evaluate yourself.

Ask yourself those questions that need to be asked. Do an evaluation of where you are and where you are going. Let this evaluation lead you to feel happiness for the good you have done and remorse for the bad you have done. (see a short and a long evaluation guide) This latter feeling should make it easier to seek Allah's sincere forgiveness when making the Dua mentioned in tip number one above.

9. Make long, sincere and deep Duas

One of the best times to do this is during the last part of the night.

Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, related that the Prophet said: When the last one-third of the night remains, our Lord, the Glorious One descends towards the heaven of the earth and proclaims: Who is that who supplicates for Me, and I grant his supplication? Who is that who begs Me for anything and I grant it to him? And who is that who seeks My forgiveness, and I forgive him? (Bukhari, Muslim).

That means for instance, waking up one hour before Suhoor time to ask Allah for anything and everything you want that is Halal. This can be done using the Duas of the Sunnah, but also Dua in your own language, with sincerity and conviction.

For some tips on making Dua please see the article Some personal Duas you can make.

10. Memorize a different Dua every night

They don't have to be long. They can be just one line. And be sure to know what they mean generally at least, even if you don't know the exact translation in English.

You can put them on index cards (or and keep them with you during the day, glancing at them during work, while driving, waiting in line, etc.) Then practice them at night in prayer.

11. Have Iftar with the family

If you've spent Iftar time on weekdays in your cubicle at work alone with a couple of dates, now is the last few days you'll have this Ramadan to spend with your family. Use it wisely.

12. Take the family to Tarawih

Have your spouse and kids missed Tarawih most of Ramadan because you weren't there to drive them to the Masjid, which is too far away to walk to? If so, do all of yourselves a favor and bring everyone for Tarawih in these last ten nights.

13. Attend the Dua after the completion of Quran recitation

Almost all Masjids where the Imam aims to finish an entire reading of the Quran in Tarawih prayers in Ramadan will be completing their recitation in these last ten nights. They may try to end on one of the odd nights and read the Dua at the end of a reading of the Quran. Attend this particular night's Tarawih prayer with your family. See if you can attend different Masjids' Tarawih prayers the night they finish reading the Quran.

14. Finish reading a book on the Prophet

Read about the Prophet's life, which can increase your love for him and Islam by seeing how much he struggled for Allah's sake. It may inspire you to push yourself even harder during these last ten nights. This community is built on sacrifice.

15. Plan for the next year

Once you've done a self-evaluation, you can plan on where you want to go, at least in the next 12 months. Laylatul Qadr is a great night to be thinking about this (without taking away from your worship), since you'll Insha Allah, be in a more contemplative state. You may choose to dedicate one night of power for evaluation and one night for planning for the next year.

16. To do list for the Night of Power

Make a to do checklist for each Night of Power. This should define how you would like your night, the one better than a thousand months, to be used. Pick things from this list and define the sequence you would like to do things in. This will help you avoid wasting your time in unproductive chats which common in the festive atmosphere of Masjids at the Night of Power.

Source : Soundvision

This is an interesting article sent to me by Br Muqeeth!
Jazakallah Muqeeth!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Justice and equity to all is our motto!! FACE-TO-FACE with Moulana Shafi Moonis

I could not resist the temptation to share this interview of Moulana Shafi Moonis given to Dr Waquar Anwar. I cherished it and enjoyed reading.

I know Dr. Waquar Anwar Sahib and have met him a couple of times. I had the privilege of translating his speech in Tamil once. I had discussed with him ways and means to improve the contents and style of Radiance views weekly.
He usually used to write on Budget issues and economic policies. As they are Latin to me I would just give a glance and turn the page. I have read a story written by him long ago.
His stint of last page comments are crispy, witty and thought provoking. But the format was very formal and without any buildup, narration they didn't make you absorb in them. And they are that type of matter too.
But, recently, to my delight he has started interviewing old van guards of the movement and has tried to extract inspiring anectodes, comments, gems of advices. This interview of Moulana Shafi Moonis is his third such interview.
It is pleasing, inspiring to read. The answers are to the point, blunt and very guarded. You can see the typical Shafee Moonis stamp on them. Dr Waqar Anwar has tried very hard to get stuff from the Moulana. But, it might have been a very adventorous experience of him. The Jijhak, dar with which he placed and phrased his questions is very palpable.
The issues raised are varied. But still there is a thishnagi. The rendezvous with the Moulana ends suddenly. A sequel or more than two, three sequels are needed. It should not be a onetime affair. Here is a great tahreeki leader, a contemporary of Moulana Moududi, one who has seen the ups and downs of the tahreek..! He is virtually a mine of knowledge and informations. You have to dig more and more.
Uh! the build up has become lengthy..! No more comments. Go on and enjoy the interview.

Justice and equity to all is our motto!!


I had to take extra care to be punctual as I knew that Maulana Muhammad Shafi Moonis himself is very careful about time. He has been among the first to enter the mosque for obligatory prayers and foremost in reaching meeting places. He was often found waiting alone for other participants not so particular about time.

I was correct. Although I was more than five minutes earlier than the appointed time, he was already ready to be face to face with me.

I enquired about his schooling and engagements before devoting full time to the Jamaat-e-Islami. His native place is Kulheri village of Muzaffar Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh, but he was born and brought up in maternal side of his family in Siwal Khas village of Meerut district of the State. After completing Munshi and Kamil he joined a school. Further, he did Vernacular Teacher’s Certificate (VTC) course and joined as a teacher at Ajmeri Gate School in Delhi.

His initiation to the Jamaat was done by Hafiz Abdus Shakoor, now no more, a good religious scholar of Ahle Hadees school of thought who met him before he came to Delhi. Another person, who later became father-in-law of Maulna Salman Saheb, editor Al-Dawah, also met him. They discussed different issues and enquired about his opinions on varied subjects, including communism.

“I knew a bit about communism. Although I was a practising Muslim saying my five-time obligatory prayers regularly, I was somewhat attracted towards communism. In those days every educated young man was supposed to know, like and appreciate it. In fact (says smilingly) it was said that if a young educated and intelligent person is not attracted towards communism he must be an abnormal person needing medical and psychological treatment.”

These persons who approached him decided to provide books of Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi. They gave him all the three volumes of the book Siyasi Kashmakash. The night he finished the third volume of the book he was a changed person. Earlier he had been closely associated with the Congress party since 1929. He became mentally associated with the Jamaat. Rest followed in normal course. He became its member.

I asked how he had been associated with the Congress party.
“The headmaster of my primary school was a Persian knowing non-Muslim who taught us the Urdu language. He was a subscriber of a newspaper named Tej and used to leave the newspaper on his table and I used to read the same in his absence. It was a Congress leaning newspaper and I, despite my childhood, became an admirer and activist of the party.”


“I met Maulana Maudoodi and shook hands with him in the public meeting (Ijtima-e-Aam) of 1945. I heard his Friday sermon on that occasion. That sermon has since been published. Further, I heard his speech there and was greatly impressed. Prior to that he used to write his lecture and read the same in meetings. There, for the first time, it was an extempore lecture. That too has been published and it was the ability of Mian Tufail Muhammad to write that extempore lecture verbatim and accurately. It was thought that Maulana Maudoodi cannot give lectures. But he used to write his lectures as a mere cautious attitude on his part so that no incorrect word can be attributed to him. It was because of the charged atmosphere those days. I had not earlier heard such a good speech. With the exception of Bahadur Yar Jung of Hyderabad I have had the opportunity of hearing all prominent speakers of the time. But the quality of the extempore speech that I heard from Maulana Maudoodi was par excellence. Its logic, its appeal and its content, everything was superb. However, in the winter vacation of 1946 I went to Pathankot to meet Maulana Maudoodi. He knew about me and met as if he was an old acquaintance. He told me that I do not appear to be from Muzaffar Nagar as my dialect and manner of speaking certain words were different. Then he mimicked the way persons from Muzaffar Nagar speak. He was correct because despite my short stay in Muzaffar Nagar I had not picked the local dialect.”


My next query related to different personalities he came across in the Jamaat, particularly those who were leading it.
“I was impressed by Ali Mian. He left the Jamaat even though he had no personal difference with the Jamaat. He was basically inclined towards the Tableeghi Jammat. Even when he was the local president of the Jamaat Islami Hind’s Lucknow unit he used to go out for tableeghi daurey (excursions for propagation of basic tenets of Islam). He later engrossed himself fully in that work. So his departure from the Jamaat was unannounced and in a natural fashion. It was unlike the case of Maulana Manzoor Nomani.

“It is very difficult to assess personalities. However, we should judge the services of different persons for the Jamaat. I have been impressed by Maulana Sirajul Hasan. He is neither a great religious scholar nor a luminary of modern education. But I am impressed by his selfless and tireless services to spearhead the Jamaat at a very critical moment of its history.

Another person whom I adore much was Maulana Sadruddin Islahi. I consider him to be a thinker and author of highest calibre who had no parallel in the subcontinent as to comprehend and elaborate the underlying concepts and principles of the Islamic movement. (Maulana Maudoodi ke baad is barre sagheer mein Jamaat ke sub se achhey mizaj shanas they woh). I used to consider that he would be a very impressive and attractive person like other religious scholars. But when I first met him in Pathankot, where he had come to the railway station to receive me, I was taken aback and surprised. He was a simple and lean and thin person with the appearance of a commoner. Besides his intellectual faculties and writing abilities he was a very pious person. Jamaat-e-Islami succeeded in attracting a good number of able and pious persons. It is not possible to talk about all of them. However, I must add the name of Maulana Afzal Hussain.”


I dared discuss the vexed issue of participation of the Jamaat in elections and its political activities. I particularly referred to the studied silence maintained by Maulana Abul Lais Islahi Nadwi in his second term as President of the Jamaat. Maulana Shafi Moonis agreed that that silence sent wrong signals in the Jamaat. “Maulana Abul Lais was keeping mum to keep the Jamaat united and in a bid to keep our members from the South in good humour. He should have spoken and taken a clear stand.

“The attitude, particularly the political approach, of South India is different from that of North India. It is all related to different political conditions up to partition of the country. I used to think in Hyderabad that the type of language, slogans and speeches made in Hyderabad is neither possible nor desirable in North India. Deep South, Kerala is more different. It appears to be a different country.”

I asked whether the Jamaat was wrong in engaging in Muslim issues. He disagreed and said, “We are loyal to Islam and to Muslims. These loyalties do not trespass each other. In the same breath we are loyal to the humanity at large, including the downtrodden. Justice and equity to all is our motto. The question is only to do justice and practice equity in our intents, words, acts and deeds. The moment we will deviate from justice we will do great harm to our faith and movement. Remember that the Satan is more active than us. (Smiles). It is his full time job to distract human beings. So be guarded.”


Our discussion went to the quality of new entrants in the Jamaat and the decision to discontinue with the system of education and training started earlier in the name of Sanvi Darsgah. He said,“The quality of persons attracted towards our movement has come down. It was wrong on our part to discontinue the system of education we started earlier. We should have continued with the experiment so that a stream of properly trained and educated entrants would have joined us.”
I commented that the products of that system that we praise and refer mostly did not make themselves available to the Jamaat or to India. They settled outside and some of them became useful to us only after their respective retirements abroad. The Maulana disagreed and said, “It is all a question of quantity. Had we continued and produced a good number of young men from the system a good number would have served us directly too.

“When the Jamaat decided to disband its experimentation relating to Sanvi Darsgah I was neither in Shoora nor in Markaz. I was in South India. I heard it later. We should have continued with the experiment. I agree that a major cause was resource constraint. Similarly Markazi Darsgah should have been a major concern of the Markaz. It was, instead, handed over to the local persons from Markaz. I never agreed with this approach.”

I enquired about failure of the Jamaat in running Darsgahs, parallel educational system, nationwide. He said, “We should have at least one model institution which could be replicated elsewhere. We simply followed the existing system with certain sketchy modifications. So it was a question of the justification of our efforts. We may have produced some better results somewhere. But these institutions formed by us did not represent in totality our viewpoint on education.”

I commented that there is a question mark about the justification of forming educational institutions by us. He replied, “Yes, justification has been questionable. But this does not mean that there is no need of such institutions. Efforts in the right directions are badly needed. It is more difficult to address that need today as compared to those days. If there is no model before us whatever will be done will be akin to the existing systems without any marked difference.”

I asked what is wrong with the new products coming from SIO. He said, “They are not properly trained and they lack dedication to serve the Islamic cause. They are more career conscious about their worldly affairs. The first team of Islamic workers joined to serve the movement without much bothering about their own well beings in this world. That attachment is waning, rather it is no more there.”

I commented that some of the young men who have come up in the movement are, instead of their not having been trained properly, are made resource persons. It is harmful for them and for the Islamic movement. Maulana Shafi Moonis raised his head, watched my face intently in his characteristic manner and said, “I agree, I agree with your comments. This is not correct.”


informed him that he is considered to be a trouble-shooter in the organisation. Either he could not understand my question or it was unexpected intrusion in his privacy. He made me repeat and explain it. He might be buying time to organise his thought.

Then he replied, “It is true that I have been often sent to different zones to resolve different issues or assigned tasks that were apparently difficult or tangled. Alhamdulillah I have been successful in solving those. I have been sent so often outside the Markaz (headquarters) in places like Hyderabad, Bangalore or Lucknow that an impression got created that Maulana Abul Lais was keeping me away from the Markaz. But it was not true. I had a very cordial relationship with Amir Jamaat and every assignment given to me was meant to do some specific task. If you call it trouble-shooter it is your word (laughs). I have been sent to resolve differences and do corrective actions besides organising relief works in the face of communal riots and natural calamities. Whether I had proper abilities to do such tasks or not, I cannot say. It was for the Jamaat to consider my usefulness for the assignments.
“I have worked in Markaz (headquarters) of the Jamaat. I was sent twice to Hyderabad. I have worked for the Jamaat in Karnataka and in Uttar Pradesh. I dealt with vexed issues and resolved differences between persons and between groups. Nowhere was I accused of favouritism


Encouraged by earlier bold comment I sent another volley and asked whether he agrees that he was a Congress-man and is a congress-man? (Aap Congressi they aur Aap Congressi hain). As if I meant, once a Congress-man, always a Congress man!

He retorted, “Yes, I was a Congress-man. I was its member. And I was not a member for name sake but I did what I could do for the purpose.”

After a pause he continued the discussion and described his approach to politics. “What is happening in politics today? Congress thinks that Muslims will ultimately vote in its favour. Moonis thinks, rightly or wrongly, that the real opponent of Muslims is the Hindutva forces (BJP etc.) and it should be contained if Muslims have to live with respect and flourish in India. Now if the approach be to make it a target to weaken the Congress itself the Hindutva forces will be strengthened. For example, the policy adopted in Bihar of totally aligning with Lalu Prasad at the cost of Congress, Paswan or Nitish has not been correct. Congress has its own weaknesses, Nitish is an ally of the BJP and Paswan has been its ally, all this is accepted but I differentiate between them and the BJP, considering its basic policy and philosophy of annihilation of Muslims. We should not ignore Paswan and should keep track with Nitish too. I appreciate that every state has its own specific scenario and political decisions may be taken severally in their backdrop but whereas the Centre is concerned we need a strong government sans Hindutva forces.”


I wanted to know the background in which the decision to shift Jamaat headquarters from Old Delhi to Okhla was done. He said, “Our offices were scattered in old Delhi. We were in the lookout for a place where all offices may be kept closer to each other. We applied for a big chunk of land near Eidgah but our application was not accepted despite our efforts. I was in Lucknow those days and whenever I was in Delhi I used to visit different places in a bid to solve this problem. My one relative had purchased a piece of land in the Okhla area and I too negotiated a piece of land for me at the price of Rs.55 a square yard from Abul Fazl Farooqi. He promised to arrange further land if needed. The Jamaat had formed a committee for this purpose comprising Syed Hamid Ali, Syed Hamid Hussain and Shafi Moonis. The committee members along with Afzal Hussain and other leaders of the organisation visited the place and liked it. The next Shoora meeting was due per chance in a couple of days. Its members also visited the place and approved the proposed deal. The deal was completed at the rate of Rs.40 a square yard and it was much lower than the rate I had purchased earlier because the Jamaat was purchasing a much bigger piece of land.”


“After the riots in Jabalpur there was an atmosphere of despair. Maulana Muslim (then Editor Dawat) met different leaders and Ulema including Maulana Hifzur Rahman, who was a very good person. We had very good relations with him and whenever he came to Rampur he used to drop in our Markaz without any prior information. As general secretary of Jamiatul Ulema he was in complete charge of its affairs. The leaders decided to call a national convention of Muslims sponsored by different organisations including Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and Muslim League. Pandit Nehru disapproved the names of the Jamaat and the League as co-sponsors and Maulana Hifzur Rahman yielded to his pressure. The convention was held but it was not successful in its objectives.

“Maulana Muslim, who was more active in the affairs of the Muslim community than the Islamic movement, kept on pursuing leaders and Ulema to come to a common platform and they started a series of tours and meetings in the country. These attempts were accepted with greater enthusiasm in South India and Maulana Sirajul Hasan played a pivotal role in it. Further riots in Calcutta (now Kolkata), Rourkila and other places added to the seriousness of the efforts. The Mushawarat was formed and it was a very positive effort giving confidence to the Muslim community and giving good message to the right thinking non-Muslims that the menace of communalism should be fought jointly.

“However, there was one development that caused much harm later. Maulana Ahmad Ali Qasmi, who was working in Imarat Shariah of Bihar, joined Mushawarat as office secretary and later made himself, on his own, general secretary. I have a feeling that Maulana Minnatullah Rahmani wanted to get rid of him from Patna and placed him in Delhi. This particular event owing to the way Ahmad Ali Qasmi dealt with the affairs and properties of the Mushawarat proved disastrous and led to disillusionment of the leaders of various Muslims organisations. We tried to bring in some measure of accountability in it and succeeded in re-establishing the rule of law and proper democratic functioning. Mushawarat is doing a good job. Its basic work is to think collectively about the problems that the Muslims are facing and arrive at their solutions and highlight the Muslim opinion through press releases, letters to editors, and communications with persons who matter and meeting with political leaders, ministers, and government officials. Mushawarat under Syed Shahabuddin and now under Zafarul Islam Khan is doing all these jobs. One may draw a list of tasks not done. But then one should also consider what is being done.”

I tried to engage Maulana Shafi Moonis on the issue why Jamiat-ul-Ulema kept itself at a bay from these collective measures of the Muslim community in India. I could not succeed in discussing the matter any long. He gave a short reply and wanted me to ask other questions. “Jamiatul Ulema’s affairs after Maulana Hifzur Rahman are being managed by Ulema whom we find not different from other Ulema we normally come across.”

I suggested that formation of Milli Council had weakened the Mushawarat. Maulana Shafi Moonis did not agree in toto and added, “Milli Council did not weaken the Mushawarat. It was already weak before this development. Sheikh sahib and Dr. Manzoor came to me to discuss the formation of Milli Council. We informed them that we are continuing with the Mushawarat and we cannot join a group that is trying to take its place. However, as a matter of policy, we are always with any good work done by anybody. Milli Council today a baby of Dr. Manzoor.”


The views of Maulana Shafi Moonis on the issue of participation of the Jamaat in elections are well known. He is credited with the discipline of elaborating (Tafheem) and representing the decisions of the Jamaat which were contrary to personal stand. I brought this trait in discussion. He elaborated his approach, “I have a weakness. Consider it a weakness or my strength, it is up to you. I do not like to present only my opinion with added emphasis, in the Jamaat or in the Millat, not lending my ears to the viewpoints of other persons and, if made to hear or happen to hear their opinions, to ignore their logic, strong points and positive aspects. As the secretary or secretary general of the Jamaat it was my duty to present correctly the decision of the Jamaat. How can I mix that up with my own opinion or any other person’s point of view? I was not assigned by the Jamaat to elaborate or represent its decision (Tafheem) on the election issue to its rank and file. But it was my duty as an official of the Jamaat to do so.”


One of the vexed issued solved by Maulana Shafi Moonis was the formation of Students Islamic Organisation of India. I enquired about the background of this event and the circumstances in which SIMI was left behind and it gone astray.

He said, “I was one of the members of the committee of the Jamaat on the issue of students organisation. Maulana Sirajul Hasan and T.K. Abdullah were also its members. In its meeting at Aurangabad the proposal came to form the students organisation under the aegis (sarparasti) of the Jamaat. SIMI leaders had agreed to abide by the decision of the Jamaat’s Shoora. But they later backed out and kept SIMI from the new setup. Its initial leaders kept it at the right path but ultimately it adopted a wrong path. I guided the formation of SIO, particularly in drawing up its constitution. Rest is history, you know.”

Monday, August 03, 2009

Lalu Prasad Yadav visits Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Head Quarters.

The RJD president and former union Railway Minister Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav had a meeting with Jamaat leaders at Markaz JIH. Mr. Yadav was accompanied by former Union Minister Mr. Jay Prakash Yadav and Former Chairman of Bihar Minorities Commission, Mr. Suhail A. Khan. Ameer-e-Jamaat Moulana Jalaluddin Umari and other Jamaat leaders attended the meeting. Also present were, Ml.Muqeem Faizi, Ml. Ameeduzzaman Kairanvi, Mr. Moji Khan and Mr. A.R. Agwan.
Mr. Yadav was briefed about Jamaat’s multifaceted activities and also about the issues Jamaat considers important for the country. Mr. Yadav agreed that the government should present Liberhan Commission Report along with ATR in the parliament and all the culprits should be punished. He assured that he would demand the immediate presentation of Rangnath Misra Report in the parliament and its implementation.
Mr. Yadav’s attention was brought to the recent judgment of Delhi High Court regarding article 377 of IPC. Mr. Yadav assured that he would fight against any move to legalise homosexuality. He clarified his stand about reservation for women in the legislatures and said that he was not against the reservation. He was against the present form of the bill that was a conspiracy against minorities and backward classes.
Mr. Yadav supported the demand for a judicial probe into the Batla House encounter . He also agreed to have a mechanism to constantly remain in touch with Muslim Leadership.

From a report in Jamaat's website More Here

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Islamic Banking in Kerala...!

Here is the good news!
It is official now. The kerala government is seriously contemplating to establish Islamic Bank in the state. As a first step it is seriously planning to introduce Interest free banking norms through financial institutions. According to Mr Isaac Thomas, state's finance minister,''We find it extremely important to accelerate the economic growth in the state in view of the financial meltdown".
It should be noted that kerala's banks get remittances of about 37000 crores of rupees every year from its two million strong overseas workers, majority of them practising Muslims who do not like to claim interest on their deposits.
To read the full story click the photo below.
Read more: Isaac moots new mechanism to help jobless Gulf returnees

But, still it is long way to go. There are miles to go before Islamic banking becomes a living reality. It has to be beneficial to the common man as well as NRIs.
Hats off to those who are striving for this noble cause. Particularly, to Janab H. Abdur Raqeeb Sahib and his team.
Read Abdur Raqeeb Sahib's interview in Arab News

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Be alive to the purpose of life!!

Nazima Almas Sayed
Here is an interview which is very interesting, heartening and inspiring. It is very brief, specific and full of message.

It is all about a girl named Nazima Almas Sayed. She is from Nagpur. She has stood all alone and first among the more than 11 lakh students who wrote the HSC exam. Besides she got second place in Vidharbha in the state Medical Entrance Exams, first in the state entrance for private colleges ASSOCET and second in the state Sevagram exams.

Coming from a family connected with the medical profession Nazima chalked out her aim of life very early in her life and started working to achieve it. She wants to be a cardialogist. “Heart is the most important part of the body. There I will use all my potential,” she beams with confidence.

She had the habit of preparing charts and pasting them on walls where they were easy to be noted always. So wherever she was at home, study matters were always in front of her eyes.

It is her advice to the Muslim students is what makes her unique. “Dare to dream. Have passion to fulfill that dream. Be persistent in hard work. Don’t be aimless in life.”

The journalist who has interviewed has done a good job. Well done, Najiya.

The Excerpts of the interview is given below.

Be alive to the purpose of life!!

By O Najiya, Two

“It feels great!” says Nazima Almas Sayed. And she has every reason to feel so – she bagged the first rank in the Maharashtra Higher Secondary Examination. Her achievements have not stopped there. She got second place in Vidharbha in the state Medical Entrance Exams, first in the state entrance for private colleges ASSOCET and second in the state Sevagram exams.

Nazima, a student of the Shivaji Science College of Nagpur, topped the HSE exams with 98.5% marks. Over 11.84 lakh students had attended the exam conducted in February-March.

Talking to, Nazima expressed her desire to pursue the medical profession, specializing in cardiology. “Heart is the most important part of the body. There I will use all my potential,” she said.

This only daughter of a doctor family had decided to take up the medical profession long back. Initially she wanted to become a gynaecologist like her mother. But later she changed her decision, she says, after meeting many people.

Nazima’s father is a doctor of general medicine. Her elder brother is a second year student of MBBS. Her younger brother studies in eighth standard.

“Teachers and friends had a great role in my success,” says Nazima. “Teachers taught me how to learn and answer questions. Multiple choice questions that I had in my entrance coaching classes were really helpful in having a deep understanding of things.”

So, how was her study method?

Nazima used to get up at four in the morning and study for an hour. Early morning study really helped, she says. Then she had tuitions before school time. In school, she used to attend classes with full concentration. “I depended mainly on my teachers’ lectures and text books. Notes given came only after that.” She had the habit of preparing charts and pasting them on walls where they were easy to be noted always. So wherever she was at home, study matters were always in front of her eyes.

Nazima also had a good company of friends. “We had a healthy competition among friends. We used to appreciate each other in success and correct in case of any mistakes,” Nazima said. And she expressed her happiness in the success of her friends who have achieved very good marks in HSE as well as entrance exams.

Now, what does she want to do for the society and community?

She says she wants to work against the social evils of abortion and female foeticide. She had attended programmes conducted by some NGOs against abortion, and that triggered in her the urgent need to fight against this social menace. She hopes her medical profession will offer her a great opportunity to serve the society.

Nazima, who has never been outside the country, loves to go abroad. She likes to go abroad and study the new and most modern technology in the medical field. And then she plans to come back home to implement here what she had learned. When asked about settling abroad, she said she did not like it. “I was born and brought up here. I love going out but don’t want to live there forever.”

“Being a Muslim doesn’t make you inferior in the society,” says Nazima. “Dare to dream. Have passion to fulfill that dream. Be persistent in hard work. Don’t be aimless in life.”

Nazima believes that each human being has been born and brought to the world for a purpose. One should realize that purpose and live up to it.

And her message to the Muslim students?

‘Be alive to the purpose of your life.’

Friday, July 03, 2009

It is mad, mad, mad, mad world!

The Delhi High Court has in a stupendously stupid judgement legalised the homosex!
I could not understand the wisdom behind this move. Now they are talking about scrapping Article 377.
Yeh mulk kidhar Jaa rahaa hai?
It is an idiotic irony that from Amarthya Sen to Arundhati Roy, from Vikram Seth to Sunil Seth some big big, big names with understandably biggest brains and minds have openly come out in support of homo sex! God damn them!
What happened to the so called custodians of Indian culture? Why are they silent?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Sri Lanka: Ten Myths by Satya Sagar

Over the years and decades dozens of myths have been floated about this island nation's history, politics and conflict.

Many of these myths were created by colonial administrators and ‘scholars' in the period when the British ruled the island. Many more were created by the chauvinist Sinhala elite- of different shades- who have run Sri Lanka for the past sixty years. Some others were born in the fertile minds of the armchair warriors who sit in New Delhi and a few created by the various champions of the Sri Lankan Tamils themselves.

Given below is a list of the top ten myths (in my opinion) about contemporary Sri Lanka , the dispelling of each of which is indispensable to finding a lasting solution to the seemingly perpetual tragedy of its diverse population.

Myth One: The Sri Lankan government is/was at war with the LTTE: This has been the single biggest myth about the Sri Lankan conflict in our time and used as an excuse by many outside to keep quiet about what has been happening all these years in this island country. The LTTE is/was after all a ‘terrorist' organisation banned by the international community and so what as wrong if the Sri Lankan government went to war against them?

The simple truth is that the Sri Lankan conflict is much older than the LTTE itself, which emerged as a force only in the early eighties. The systematic conversion of Sri Lankan Tamils into second-class citizens in their own country or state-sponsored violence against them however dates back to the time of Sri Lankan independence in the late-forties itself.

The recent offensive in the north of Sri Lanka was just a new and more brutal phase of the war that Sri Lankan Sinhala elite have been waging for a long time against Sri Lankan Tamils and indeed all the minorities in the country.

In their quest for power there has been no human norm left unviolated by the Sri Lankan elite, which has managed to murder over 20,000 or more of the country's Tamil citizens in its final assault on the LTTE in May this year. If the LTTE has used terrorist methods to further its cause there is no doubt that the Sri Lankan government has used genocidal methods to put them down.

Myth Two: The Mahinda Rajapakse government has ‘won' the ‘civil war' and successfully prevented the division of Sri Lanka : There is of course nothing ‘civil' about any war but this term implies that the conflict in Sri Lanka is between two groups that belong to the same nation. Maybe this was true upon a time long ago but is certainly not the case any longer.

How many countries around the world do you have governments bombing their own citizens using air power, mobilising tanks, heavy artillery, thousands of ground forces, sophisticated military equipment supplied by foreign governments?

How many governments herd all citizens of a linguistic minority into concentration camps to be treated as terrorists simply because of their identity?

And after doing all this what right do they have to call themselves ‘one nation'?

What we are today witnessing in Sri Lanka is indeed a war between two separate nations. Whether the regime in Colombo realizes this or not by their own actions over the years they have made Tamil Eelam a reality today. The defeat of the LTTE is not the defeat of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka . Nor is it the end of their quest for dignity, against racist discrimination and the right to self-determination.

There comes a point in every relationship when divorce becomes inevitable and the only alternative to separation is gross murder. That time has arrived in Sri Lanka today. The future of the Tamil people should be urgently decided by a internationally monitored referendum on whether or not they want to be part of a united Sri Lanka .

Myth Three: The creation of a Tamil Eelam will damage the interests of the rest of Sri Lanka : In fact the opposite is likely to happen if Sri Lanka 's Tamils are given the right to self-determination and form their own country. Either they will fail miserably and clamour to become part of a future Sri Lankan federation on their own accord or succeed brilliantly and create a prosperous neighbourhood that benefits everyone. If a group of Tamil guerillas could make fighter aircraft while hiding in the forests of Vanni imagine what they can achieve in peacetime.

At the same time the proponents of Tamil Eelam will also have to remember that independence does not mean all their problems will be solved automatically. They will have to deal with the divisions of caste, religion, class within the Tamil population and also demonstrate to the world that they treat all minorities in their midst as equal citizens unlike the Sri Lankan state they have opposed so bitterly all these years.

Also any Tamil Eelam will geographically forever remain on the same island- after all Eelam can't be physically carried away to Australia or Canada . In the long run the Tamil and Sinhala people, along with every other community on the island of what is currently called ‘Sri Lanka' today will have to come to terms with each other and live in harmony - as perpetual war can only mean collective suicide.

Myth Four: The Sri Lankan Tamils will gang up with Indian Tamils and create a ‘Greater Tamil' nation: For all the light and sound produced in the Indian province of Tamil Nadu about the fate of their ‘Tamil brothers and sisters' in Sri Lanka the fact remains – beyond the usual rhetoric- they have not really done much for them. Over the past twenty years there are thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees languishing in Tamil Nadu without proper shelters, livelihood, education for their children or even safety from arbitrary arrest by local police. The Indian government has repeatedly turned down calls to sign international treaties on rights of refugees and the politicians of Tamil Nadu – busy bargaining for their place in the Indian cabinet- don't care a damn.

Similarly, soon after independence from British rule when the then Sri Lankan government, in one of its first vile acts, disenfranchised over a million Indian Tamils working in the country's tea plantations there was not a murmur of protest from the then leaders of the Sri Lanka 's Tamils. They were ‘Indian Tamils' after all and that too poor workers to boot.

The point I am trying to make is that Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils have different histories, outlooks and priorities and cannot be simplistically conflated into one phrase ‘Tamil people'. The fact is that the problem of the Sri Lankan Tamils is not a ‘Tamil' issue at all- it is a problem common to many linguistic, ethnic, religious and other minorities around the world. While indeed the people who are suffering today in Sri Lanka are the Tamil speaking population of that country their primary identity is that of an oppressed people fighting for their rightful place under the sun and not as Tamil speakers alone.

In that sense what is being murdered in Sri Lanka is not just the Tamil population but the very concept of humanity itself, an issue that should agitate the entire world. To make my stand clear I would say that if the Sinhala people had been a minority in Sri Lanka and the Tamils had been the racist oppressors I would have appealed to the world to fight for the rights of the Sinhalese.

Myth Five: Sri Lanka has a special place in world Buddhism and its territorial integrity needs to be protected by the Sinhala people: From whatever little I know, the Buddha became what he did only by giving up his entire kingdom in the search for truth and the salvation of humankind. In the process he in fact conquered the entire world. What the current day proponents of religious nationalism in Sri Lanka are promoting is a crude kind of ‘landlordism' and certainly not ‘Buddhism', which has nothing to do with ownership of property.

The idea of the Sinhala elite being champions of Buddhism – a religion of compassion, peace and tolerance - is also simply laughable given their historical record of taking so many lives. Ultimately you are a Buddhist only by what you do in practice and not by wearing saffron robes, chanting a few mantras in Pali or Sanskrit or building large and expensive monuments to the Buddha.

Two thousand years ago the great Emperor Ashoka became a Buddhist when he repented for the massacres he committed in the war on the Kingdom of Kalinga . Today the Sinahala chauvinists, many of whom claim their ancestry back to the very same Kalinga, are exiting from Buddhism through the genocide they have committed against the Tamil people. These champions of Buddhism have no doubt become its greatest destroyers.

Myth Six: Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and outsiders should not interfere: Sri Lanka used to be a sovereign country once upon a time when they were not at war with their own people. The fact is that whenever the Sri Lankan regimes have been in deep trouble they have always violated their own sovereignty to seek help from other countries to help prop up their rule.

In 1971 the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government sought and obtained the help of the Indian navy together with the Pakistani air force to put down the JVP rebellion- mainly consisting of Sinhala youth fighting for revolutionary change in their country. Today in their war against the Tamils the Sri Lankan regime is supported by the governments of India , Pakistan , China , Russia and Israel while the entire Lankan economy depends on regular infusions of aid and cash from the IMF, World Bank, Japan or the European Union. It is also worth mentioning that the conflict on this island over the decades has sent thousands of Tamil citizens fleeing the country into exile all over the globe. So for all the touchiness of its leaders against ‘foreign interference' what is happening in Sri Lanka is really an international conflict and the people of the world have as much right to interfere there as their governments.

Myth Seven: A majority of the Sinhalese people are racists and chauvinists: Sinhala chauvinism was inevitable in a country where the Sinhala population is in a majority and every politician has to stoke nationalist, ethnic or religious passions to win his/her election. So whether you were a practicing Buddhist or not or knew even how to speak Sinhala properly or really loved your motherland you had to be a ‘Sinhala Buddhist nationalist' in order to succeed in politics.

There is no real history of Sinhala-Tamil conflict before the formation of the Sri Lankan ‘nation' artificially carved out of their ‘Raj' by the hastily departing British colonialists in 1948. For most ordinary Sinhalese, like ordinary folk everywhere, the main concern is livelihood or love and the quest for a better life denied to them by their own elites.

But so venal have been the feudal Sri Lankan families that inherited power from the British that they chose to divide and destroy their motherland rather than give up power- political, economic or social- to the ordinary men and women of their land.

If one looks at the results of the 2005 presidential election in Sri Lanka the hawkish Mahinda Rajapakse won only by a slender margin of 50.29% of the overall votes against 48.43% for former Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, who had signed a peace deal with the LTTE in 2002. Since the Tamil population largely boycotted the election what this clearly shows that close to half the Sinhala voters preferred peace over war when they voted for Ranil.

Today most of these Sinhala people are also being held hostage by the fascist Rajapakse regime, which has turned Sri Lankan nationalism into a family-run dictatorship guarded by guns purchased with the people's own hard earned money. The fact that there are still enough Sri Lankan journalists and human rights activists willing to die to preserve democracy in their country is evidence that human decency is still not dead everywhere on this troubled island. The entire world should come to the support of these brave people fighting one of the most murderous regimes in recent history.

Myth Nine - The Indian government, once supportive of the Sri Lankan Tamils, has turned against them: The truth is that the Indian government does not really care for either the Sri Lankan Tamils or the Sinhalese for that matter. Like in most countries of South Asia successive Indian regimes too have only been bothered about preserving the power of the corporate or feudal elites and care little for their ordinary citizens.

New Delhi in that sense is not the capital of India but the seat of the Indian Empire inherited from the Mughals and the British by the ‘Brown Sahibs' of today. And among the nefarious things these Johnnies have been up to all these years is bullying neighbouring governments and playing games with the lives of their people - especially those that don't ‘stand up and obey'.

So the Indian regimes in the past supported the Tamil struggle, including through military assistance and training, when they wanted to put the then Sri Lankan government in ‘its place'. Later on when their priorities changed – for various reasons chief among which was the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi- they dumped the Tamils and started cultivating the Sinhala elite.

The lip sympathy for Tamils across the Palk Straits that still emanates now and then from New Delhi is solely because of the compulsions of electoral politics in Tamil Nadu- where politicians routinely play political football with the hopes and aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Once elections are over it is back to the usual indifference to the fate of thousands of people being pulverised by the genocidal Sri Lankan state.

Myth Ten – Governments around the world do not care what happens to the Sri Lankan Tamils: Many of them actually they care so much that they will not do anything to help the Tamils form their own nation. For many governments – from India to Israel and China to Russia- Tamil Eelam becoming a reality would set a ‘bad example' to their own restive minorities. Hence their all out support to the ruthless Sri Lankan government, who they believe is showing them ‘the way' how to deal with dissent of all kinds within their borders.

Western nations, that themselves have the blood of innocent civilians on their hands in Iraq , Afghanistan and elsewhere, also care- but only about their own global image. Making noise about upholding human rights after the genocide has been carried out allows to them to appear to be ‘civilised' without having to take any meaningful action.

After all it was quite clear that a colossal human tragedy was in the offing for the past three months. If the UK , EU and the US had put their combined might together to warn the Rajapakse government properly the Sri Lankan lion- for all its bravado- would have squeaked like a trapped mouse.

The fact is that the Sri Lankan Tamils today can expect genuine support for their cause only from other people around the world facing similar racist discrimination or fighting for autonomy and self-determination. That is not such a bad thing, as looking across the globe such people probably constitute well over half the planet's population.

There are the Palestinians, the Tibetans, the Burmese, the Kashmiris and people of the Indian North-East, the Baluchis, the Pashtuns, the Chechens, the Basques, the Puerto Ricans, the Scots—and lots more. If Sri Lanka 's Tamils can join hands with all these struggles for dignity and equality it would be a good start indeed to make a fresh bid for Tamil Eelam!

Source : Counter currents website

Satya Sagar is a journalist, writer, video maker based in New Delhi . He can be contacted at

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Binayak Sen, India and Justice!!

“How many does it take to metamorphose wickedness into righteousness?

“One man must not kill. If he does it is murder. Two, ten, one hundred men, acting on their own responsibility, must not kill. If they do, it is still murder. But a state or nation may kill as many as they please, and it is no murder. It is just, necessary, commendable and right. Only get people enough to agree to it, and the butchery of myriads of human beings is perfectly innocent.

“But how many does it take? This is the question. Just so with theft, robbery, burglary, and all other crimes. Man-stealing is a great crime in one man, or a very few men only. But a whole nation can commit it, and the act becomes not only innocent, but highly honorable…

“Verily there is magic in numbers! The sovereign multitude can out-legislate the Almighty, at least in their own conceit. But how many does it take? Just enough to make a nation.…Alexander the Great demanded of a pirate, by what right he infested the seas. By the same right, retorted the pirate, that Alexander ravages the world. How far was he from the truth?”

- Adin Ballou, American social reformer and abolitionist (1803-90)

A famous story links two great Americans. When the United States invaded Mexico in 1846, the great naturalist Henry Thoreau, in an act of civil disobedience, refused to pay his taxes as a mark of protest against US actions and was sent to prison for his sin against the state. His close friend and mentor from Harvard, Ralph Waldo Emerson came to see him in jail. Emerson quipped “what are you doing inside?” Thoreau's reply made Emerson blush. “What are you doing outside ?”, he replied.

There are times when jails become one of the few places of honour left in the world. Where, after all, would you like to find yourself if robbers and murderers were masquerading before the public as magistrates, judges and hangmen?

India today finds itself crouched in one such corner of shame, wherein those with permeable skin feel out of place before the television sets in their own living rooms. The air is thick with suspicion and accusation as the odour of staggering injustices hangs about us everywhere one goes.

While well-known serial killers gamely garner tickets from national parties for the parliamentary elections and mass-murderers sagely deliver their homilies from our television screens, women and men of integrity and courage must lurk and slide in the dark alleys of our cities or in the forlorn jungles of the land. It is a state of affairs which would have appalled and nauseated decent citizens a generation ago, let alone the heroes and heroines of our freedom movement. The sad truth is that as a civilisation India 's standing in the world has suffered a precipitous fall during the last several years, even as our elated elite's vainglorious aspirations to super-power-hood never miss a morning to announce themselves. Are they out of step, or the rest of us? Time will tell, though it is as much up to us to determine which way the die of destiny will roll.

If Adin Ballou is right, and the multitude is indeed sovereign (“un punishable”, in the words of Edmund Burke), the question for us in India today becomes as to which multitude is the more important one, the one which is suffering the lies and crimes of our leaders, or the numerically far lesser one which prospers on their patronage. It is for us, the citizenry of this beleaguered country, to ensure that we find the courage to determine the morally correct order of importance. Or else, posterity will curse us.

The case of Dr. Binayak Sen

After six decades of freedom from colonial rule, India is still a largely poor country. One of the most severe forms of deprivation suffered by the poor is with respect to health, particularly so in a time when the cost of drugs, tests and health care has shot up so dramatically, thanks to the “liberalization” and privatization of the health sector. In such a context, it is worth asking how many Indian paediatricians one can name who have given 30 years of their lives as a volunteer – in unstinting service to the needy poor in the countryside. At a guess, the actual number is in three figures, or perhaps even in two digits. But the name of Dr. Binayak Sen surely figures prominently among them.

Are we just going to sit and watch?

A universe of human struggle for dignity stands between rule by men and the rule of law. Some of the more glorious chapters in the history of the world since the American and the French revolutions occupy this universe.

Today in India we live – de facto – under the rule of men, rather than under the rule of law. As the moral decline of the Indian justice system keeps pace with the decay of the polity (there are over 25 million pending cases in our courts), are we going to keep sipping beer and munching chips while watching the IPL on Television every night? How long before the government admits that – election or no election – it can never assure the security of sportsmen and women again, the state Pakistan has already reached?

22 Nobel Laureates – including 9 in medicine, 9 in Chemistry, 2 in Physics and 2 in Economics – signed a petition a year ago asking for the unconditional release of Binayak Sen. They expressed “grave concern” that Dr. Sen has been held in prison for the peaceful exercise of fundamental human rights. They point out that this is in contravention of Articles 19 (freedom of opinion and expression) and 22 (freedom of association) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which India is a signatory. They also point out that Dr.Sen is charged under two internal security laws that do not conform to international human rights standards.

There was not a single Indian name in that list . Does that say something about us?

Our outrage at the perpetrators of injustice needs to be louder and more relentless. We need to subject state functionaries to the same standards that they reserve for us citizens. Our judgment of truth and falsehood, right and wrong have suffered enormous reverses since the days of globalization and 24/7 entertainment began. If you think I am exaggerating consider taking a little quiz.

What is common to the following group of people? Socrates, Nelson Mandela, Kenneth Kaunda, Kwame Nkrumah, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Jayaprakash Narayan, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Binayak Sen

Irom Sharmila, Martin Luther King Jr., Henry Thoreau, Bertrand Russell, Rosa Luxemburg, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov, Leon Trotsky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alexander Pushkin.

Write your answer down.

Now consider a second group of people and try to see what they have in common: Mullah Omar, Osama Bin Laden, Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar

H.K.L Bhagat, Narendra Modi, Jyoti Basu, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjea, Bal Thackeray, George Bush, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, John Howard, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Ferdinand Marcos

Idi Amin, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

Write your answer.

Now you can compare your answers with the right one. The first group of people all belong to a set who went to prison for speaking up against the injustices of their respective governments. The second group of people are mass-murderers who have been so fortunate as to never have to stand trial for their crimes. It is time to find our moral balance.

To read the rest of the article click here.
Aseem Srivastava could be contacted at

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Deciphering Deras...!

The Indian Express has an excellent FAQ on the history of deras (Sikh sects) in Punjab:

What are deras and why are they in the news?

A dera is technically the headquarters of a group of devotees who follow the teachings of a particular spiritual guru and generally have a living representative of the guru who is equally revered. The representatives of the gurus, who hold the gaddi, are normally anointed by their predecessors.

How many deras are there in Punjab?

Estimates vary but it is generally believed that there are about 300 major deras across the state and the neighbouring state of Haryana. Out of these, about a dozen have substantial following — over one lakh devotees each. There are hundreds of others which are restricted to a few villages each.

Are only Sikhs members of these deras?

No, membership of deras is not restricted to Sikhs. A number of Hindus are also members of these deras. In fact, some of the deras even have Muslim and Christian followers.

Who are the main followers of the deras?

Although these deras generally have members from various castes and creeds, the majority of the members belong to the so-called “lower castes”, that is, members of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes.

To read the full story click here.

Why is Punjab burning?

It took only a few hours for fires to erupt across Punjab after the news from Vienna of “serious injuries” to Sant Niranjan Dass, head of Dera Guru Ravidass Sachkhand Balan, and the death of his deputy Sant Ramanand, both of whom were on a tour to Europe.

The rapidity with which protests spread is a pointer to the growing clout of deras that have mushroomed across the state and their potential to spark off conflict.

In fact, all major villages in Punjab today have two gurdwaras — one frequented by the so-called “upper castes” or Jat Sikhs, another by Dalits or “lower castes,” including members of SCs and OBCs. Ironically, Sikhism was founded five centuries ago to counter the caste system. Today, it’s members of under-privileged communities who constitute the growing ranks of deras, each one usually headed by a living guru — much against the tenets of Sikhism, writes Vipin Pubby in Indian Express.

To read the full story, click here

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Shrinking spaces, new places by P. Sainath.

P. Sainath in Chennai
P. Sainath is one of the few outstanding journalists of this great nation. Rarely we come across such a gem. I have met him a couple of times. Once when he was in Chennai, in Madras Christian College to be precise a few years ago. He delivered a beautiful speech on "Media and poverty". Then on another occasion he was in the famous Loyala College to deliver a speech on "Impact of Globalisation and youth". P. Sainath was at his best. It was full of mind boggling statistics, minute details which laymen like you and me fail to notice.
I have been reading him mostly in The Hindu and sometimes in this website. Media has always been his target and he has made scathing attacks on the impotence of media. I came across one such article today. In fact it was written a decade ago, when A B Vajpayee was calling the shots in Delhi and the nation was passing through very crucial, critical times. But the issues raised by P. Sainath is still worthy to be taken note of.
Excerpts from the article :

Shrinking spaces, new places

CALL it the 43 paise syndrome.

Editors of large dailies explain it this way: their newspapers cost around six rupees a copy to produce but are sold at a sixth of that sum. Of the one rupee each copy is sold for, 57 paise goes to hawkers, distributors et al. So the publication gets just 43 paise for each copy worth six rupees. The higher the circulation the greater the financial gap.

It is advertising revenue that covers the remaining five rupees fifty seven paise – and adds much more to make up the profits. So the ad department is at least six times more important than editorial. The lesson the editors have drawn: they, their staff, their news gathering talent, everything to do with editorial content is worth 43 paise. Their spaces have shrunk and they have to know their place. Which is so far below the advertising department in the pecking order that stepping out of line invites being stamped on and squished. You stick to the service entrance and consider yourself lucky not to be in the cellar.

That self-image defines small, stifling limits outside which editors won’t venture. There are obvious flaws in such an outlook. Still, the acceptance of this ‘law’ within the fraternity implies real shifts in power. The clout of the older editors, in this view, belonged to a past when newspapers drew the bulk of their money from circulation. Since profits were tied to how well the paper sold in this imagined Golden Age, owners treated their editors with great respect. If the editorial content was good, the paper sold well. Editors were respected. Everyone was happy. It was as close to newsprint nirvana as you could get.

This is a seductive though misleading view, since it does have serious elements of truth. However, ‘respect’ for editors, whatever that means, also derives from many other factors. It happens, for instance, when their newspapers stand for something. When publications are tied to values, however modest, that go beyond profit. When they take at least some positions that do not result in direct gain for their companies, their banks or other interests. Often, when they stand up to power.

Many editors of stature in this country and elsewhere do not necessarily edit large dailies. (Several have run or are running small, struggling journals.) They have also earned respect for another, simple reason. They sell their labour, not their souls. Nor was it the case that those who edited high circulation papers in the past always enjoyed a high standing. And if papers could be sold without news and editorial content, it would have happened by now, with half a dozen chains in this country leading the charge. Even the most hardline proprietors know – never mind what they say – that we haven’t quite got there yet.

Still, editors have largely accepted their worth as 43 paise and there is less debate over this today than ten years ago. There’s little debate over everything in the papers. The Times of India, for instance, has ordered its correspondents to cover the coming elections ‘bearing the entertainment and personality angles in mind.’ It isn’t just newsprint space that has vanished though. Many spaces are shrinking in public discourse, even as a few new ones open. Kargil shows us that brilliantly. Where’s the challenge to some very dangerous forms of jingoism even among those who ought to know better?

It was over ten days before anyone of standing condemned the Shiv Sena’s attack on Dilip Kumar. And even then the criticism was sotto voce. The actor himself said that what hurt most was the silence of his fellow stars. Most of them anyway were too busy working out how to cash in on Kargil. So how could they address what must rank as one of the most despicable of patriotism-tests in recent memory? Quite a few of them were dancing at Smita Thackeray’s fund-raising concert for Kargil even as the Shiv Sena baited Dilip Kumar. Publications that seem to live for the coverage of celebrities, especially those of the film world, reacted very warily.

As always, there were admirable exceptions to the Kargil cult. There were a few, fine, questioning reports in print, television and other forums. But the big picture was dismal.

It was some weeks before a newspaper found that charges of ‘unpatriotic’ behaviour against Abul Hassan Ali Nadwa had been concocted. He was said to have told ‘a huge gathering’ of his followers on 13 June that they should not pray for Indian soldiers in Kargil. ‘Ali Mian’, as he is known, was in fact bedridden after a paralytic stroke months ago. He can barely speak, let alone walk. And he has not made a public appearance since March.

It was after nearly two months of hostilities that the first notes of criticism surfaced in the media on the jingoism within it. In some journals, this contrasted strangely with the remaining pages that still blazed away along the very lines that dismayed the critics. As for the Net, that miracle liberating force of modern mythology, the less said about the visceral hate campaigns that captured its discourse, the better. Sure, it can do much better. It just didn’t!

Newspapers have also taken to carrying ‘certified’ critics; those who will make mild noises of protest but won’t go ‘too far’ outside a manufactured consensus. The media never discussed the fate of the widows and children of over 1100 IPKF soldiers who died in Sri Lanka. Or those scores of soldiers whose limbs were blown away by mines in the same conflict. But that wasn’t India’s first ‘televised war’. This one is. It was only in the last phases that reports on the veterans of 1971 began to find some space. On the IPKF there is still silence.

It was bizarre to watch Kargil widows asked to face the camera and mouth brave words about sending the babes in their wombs to the front. (They should be grown in time for the next conflict.) In all likelihood, several of these unfortunate women, a year from now, will be struggling with the local bureaucracy to get pension and other funds released. Many will be facing rejection from their in-laws. (The media will at best do the ‘where-are-they-now’ stories.) But when it mattered, you could get no more than the smallest whiff of this reality amidst all that chest-thumping jingoism.

Any such discussion would be unpatriotic. ‘How can you raise questions when the boys are dying at the front?’ No space for discussion on the colossal goof-up that landed us in the situation where those boys had to die. No space for questions on the first suicide missions in the early days. Missions undertaken because the bjp government was in a panic over the political fallout at home with elections just months away. So ill-shod, poorly-equipped, young men had to charge up those peaks to their death. Nearly everyone with any information and a forum to express it in knows that the early assaults were almost in the kamikaze class. Virtually no one – again with admirable exceptions – dwelt on this at all. Not from ignorance, but by choice. There’s a kind of self-shrinkage, a voluntary surrender of space.

On tv during the early days of the hostilities, the stories that got much play, after the conflict itself, were largely on how the markets were being affected. Then came the ‘you-have-to-be-there-to-understand-it’ school of journalism from Kargil. Breathless stuff, but a contradiction in terms. The job of journalists is to tell the story for those who aren’t there. Not to become the story themselves.

Even within the media, ‘self criticism’ – with a couple of bright exceptions – was limited. Some of it was despicable. There’s been a bit written about the ‘insensitivity’ of a correspondent that supposedly led to the death of four soldiers. Since this charge was never formally made by anyone, it can’t be replied to. Which makes it grossly unfair. A charge to which there is no right of reply but which crucifies the individual. And those who make it don’t question the insensitivity of this government. One whose bungling had a hand in the deaths of far more than four soldiers.

But apart from a personal attack on the correspondent, there could be another angle to it too. The story of the journalist’s ‘crime’ itself seems to have been fabricated. Yet, it gave the army another lever to use on an already compliant media. After that, anyone stepping mildly out of line would fear a similar smear.

Maybe this is also a way of evading large collective failures. Of both the elite and their user-friendly media. But it sends out danger signals. In this case, the unproven charge was criminal insensitivity. In others, it is a lack of patriotism. The chattering classes are storming the ‘letters to the editor’ columns. Their invective not only attacks those who question, but demands they be silenced.

At the same time, the call for a nuclear attack on Pakistan in the RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya has been played down. Here is one of the most frightening of developments – a call from the official organ of the ruling parivar. Very little discussion.

There is no questioning of the Mumbai film world’s cynical plans to turn the carnage into cash. Nor of newspapers with stories headlined: ‘Sensex peaks on Kargil, will it cross Everest?’ Corporates are no less deeply into the game. Aren’t they being ‘generous’ with funds for the soldiers? Never mind that the sums are not a speck on the multi-billion bonanza gifted by the BJP regime to a handful of private telecom operators.

Anyone wanting a television debate on this would likely have to find a sponsor. Perhaps Adidas or Nike. (‘Democratic debate, brought to you, courtesy…’) The commercial breaks would make an odd contrast with the shoes the soldiers were wearing during those first runs up the peaks. It would also be apt. Much of the coverage boils down to the elite celebrating, with befitting passion, the sacrifices of the poor. And doing so from positions of relative safety and security. Many jawans are essentially peasants in uniform. They reflect the poverty and insecurity that grip their villages. And joining the armed forces is one of their limited job options. But say this and you face a protest over patriotism all over again. Never mind that the genuine, and supremely sad, sacrifice of these soldiers will soon be on the back burner as they yield space to the Sensex Maniacs.

Public space is being overrun by the private. Spaces have shrunk as monopoly has grown; as religious chauvinism has struck deeper roots; with market fundamentalism ruling the globe; as every section of the elite gets co-opted into the ‘make money now’ game; as the disconnect between mass media and mass reality deepens; and with every human activity having to be justified on a commercial basis.

Since 1991, we’ve excelled at scotching debate on the economy, on the directions India began taking in a big way that year. Perhaps no other stream of discourse has seen its space shrink so swiftly. From ’91, the ‘debate’ was on whether the ‘reforms’ were going fast, far and deep enough. No questioning of the direction itself was allowed. Editorials hooted down critics of the exercise. They were ‘fossils’. ‘Unchain’ the top strata. Let there be ‘growth’ by any means. The benefits will trickle down to the hoi polloi. That the ‘trickle down’ theory stands discredited in every single society it has visited did not matter. If you shouted down the critics loudly enough, it worked. Not only this theory, but the supremacy of the ‘reforms’ was firmly established.

Speaking of fossils, remember Narasimha Rao? When he first took over, he was described as ‘a stopgap pm’. Or just as a ‘yawn’. A person warming the seat for someone more dynamic like Sharad Pawar. Only weeks later the media hailed him as ‘the greatest prime minister since Lal Bahadur Shastri.’ What had happened? Simple: he had put in place a set of policies that went way beyond the wildest dreams of the corporate media. After that he was unassailable. India’s greatest ever scam couldn’t undo that. Nor even the Babri Masjid demolition. The press described it as the ‘greatest crime in independent India.’ But it did not call for Rao to step down.

The government itself was shown to have survived in Parliament by purchasing the JMM votes. Sleaze was its signature tune. The urea scam involved Rao’s family directly. But that was okay. The tide had turned. Every corrupt third rater climbed the new reforms bandwagon knowing this gave him or her if not a Teflon coating, then a newsprint one. And since anyone belonging to the top ten per cent of Indian society was raking it in as never before, questions were out.

The years after ’91 saw hunger-related deaths resurface in parts of the country. That, on a scale unknown since Independence. A very large number of these were in places like Melghat in ‘rich’ states like Maharashtra. Hundreds have died of hunger-linked causes not far from the wealthy city of Mumbai. For all the debate there’s been on it at the elite level, you would think these were the most commonplace of occurrences.

The suicide deaths of nearly 400 cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh failed to make the covers of most major magazines in this country. Tata’s small car, however, did that easily. And repeatedly. When the farmers’ deaths got covered in some depth, it was months after the disaster. (The Wall Street Journal gave the story more space than any major Indian daily.)

None of this stopped us from celebrating 50 years of freedom while ducking a real look at the failures of those years. Pepsi probably spent the most money in that period outside of government. Its Shah Rukh Khan ad milking azaadi cost crores. So did the ‘official’ celebrations. And many others. The event management industry had arrived. Most Indians themselves took the jubilee with admirable balance: with neither mindless gushing nor monotonous groaning. The gushing was reserved for the media and the elite. Newspapers spoke happily of the ‘feel good factor’. Once again, this was linked to the ‘maturity’ that came with the reforms.

Reforms once also meant land reform. Social reform. Here, it meant an orgy of accumulation at the top, misery at the bottom. A deepening of disparity. Even The World Bank said on record in June this year that rural poverty in South Asia had worsened. You can debate the reasons till you are blue in the face, but hear this. It’s direct from the supreme church of the Gospel of Growth: ‘…recent data on rural wages in India suggest a stagnation,’ says the Bank. ‘In India, by the late nineties (1997), an estimated 340 million people were living in poverty, up from an estimated 300 million in the late 1980s.’ The future, ahead, does not look good.

So much for the reforms. But where’s the debate?

Other spaces at the top shrank when we went nuclear in May 1998. The jingoism in the press was almost without precedent. Front-page editorials rejoiced at the end of years of mindless ‘self-denial’. The security experts told us that India once again ‘stood tall’. Intellectualised insanity at one end of that spectrum was matched by the Hindutva Right’s more direct lunacy at the other. The VHP launched a yatra to take the sacred radioactive sands of Pokhran to the doorsteps of the devout. A time for prayers and blessings. Nuclear nirvana in ten easy aartis. Once again, the mass mood did not reflect this. The polls that followed devastated the BJP.

Kargil itself has blown any validity the nuclear myth might have had. What did not happen in the past 28 years began less than 365 days after going nuclear. But while there are exceptions, this is mostly not reflected in public discourse in the elite domain.

What about other spheres in that domain? The idea of education as a sweatshop sector no longer excites the debate it used to. Self-deception prevails. On the one hand, magazines run cover stories on the ten best schools or colleges in the country; on the other, the space for a real learning – for an education – within these has shrunk. The worship of commerce has to have its impact. Excellence, for the ‘top institutions’ seems to mean the opening of a business school. That’s the great goal in ‘education’.

This mindset long ago fractured the liberal arts. Now, even science faculties in many colleges are shutting down. (Though when you recall that your minister for education is a professor of science who believes there were nuclear weapons in the time of Ram, you wonder if this is not a good thing.) Not surprisingly, there is little debate on so worthless a person sitting on so vital a portfolio. And after a bit of a scorching over the Saraswati Vandana mess, its been business as usual.

But it isn’t just the BJP. Their escapades in education do breach the border between the merely bizarre and the nearly insane. (Three pages for Hedgewar in a textbook chapter on the freedom struggle.) For the Congress, though, business as usual has usually meant business. In Maharashtra, Patan-grao Kadam was linked to 55 private ‘educational’ institutions while still education minister in the late ’80s. A small conflict of interest there, but what the heck? The debate that occurred at all arose not from any investigation. It came because of an advertisement taken out by Kadam’s friends in a newspaper extolling his ‘patron’ status with the Flying Fifty Five. That gave the game away.

It seemed quite okay to Maharashtra’s elite that such educational ‘chains’ should exist. (The reforms began in that state a decade before they took off elsewhere in the country.) Some of these run medical colleges without anatomy theatres. The capitation fees they charge totals countless crores each year. But so many of the Beautiful People make money out of these rip-offs that it shields them from public debate.

Long ago we replaced the highly educated with the expensively educated. Now it’s the era of the expensively uneducated. The crud. Even the rare bright technocrat has given way to the aggressive technocrud. The process is less surprising than the lack of debate over it. We began the ’90s by crowning Harshad Mehta and his species as the ‘role model’ for our youth. The covers of our most powerful publications asserted that. The scam dimmed his personal star, but his line of stardom remains irresistible. The debate forced on us when he blew a hole the size of Antarctica in the markets is dead. And Mehta is now an honoured columnist in the press.

With every section of the elite raking in revenue from some dirty deal, conspiracies of silence are logical. So is a consequent loss of public debate on these vital issues. With even the President having doubts about the deal, the telecom scam should have produced greater outrage. It hasn’t. Many important people are making money out of it.

Across the country, major issues of public interest are under-debated. The ruin of the public distribution system. Rural poverty. Urban housing. Or maybe transportation policy. In Mumbai, the race to put up 52 flyovers has no precedent in history. With some having space for shopping malls beneath them, they reek of wrongdoing. And involve money on a scale perhaps unimaginable in the rest of the nation. Yet, in real terms, the debate on this has been mostly on technical issues.

It isn’t just fear, though that is a factor, which produces silence and loss of space. Often sound commercial instincts are also involved. Newspapers violating the terms of their land leases can’t really talk back to those in power. When Udhav Thackeray held his photo exhibition earlier this year, you couldn’t bung a brick at the show without striking a senior Mumbai editor. (The Times troupe was there in strength.) Then they flocked in droves to Raj Thackeray’s exhibition of cartoons as well. They went as ‘honoured guests’ at the height of public outrage against the Sena. That is, after the destruction of the bcci office by that party’s hit squads. After all the humiliation heaped on him last year, M.F. Husain too, was an ‘honoured special guest’ at these shows.

In 1997, Loksatta editor Aroon Tikekar was attacked by name in a Saamna (Sena mouthpiece) editorial. Bal Thackeray himself likely wrote that. So Tikekar was in big danger. It was a month before The Indian Express group mentioned the threat. And during that time the paper never told readers its building swarmed with police ‘protecting’ him. That time, the truth did not involve us all. The Times ran a big supplement celebrating Thackeray’s 70th birthday. Yet in no other state in recent years have so many newspaper offices been ransacked. So many journalists physically attacked. Mostly, their papers have been muted in their criticism or just silent.

The swift mafiaization of Mumbai is daily reflected in the media all right. Reports on it are legion. But the linkages of that process can’t be followed up too often. Reporters who try that, and such still exist, could be pulled up by their own publications. A devastating recent story on serious land regulation violations of Chief Minister Narayan Rane has just vanished from the pages. We’re here to make money out of your reports, not report on the making of money. Thanks very much.

And no matter how great a cricketer you are, if your ‘academy’ runs on public land, you are unlikely to speak up. Remember the silence of the greats when the BCCI office was vandalised. But silence was not all they stopped with. Ajit Wadekar shared a platform with Bal Thackeray on his birthday. That was just days after the latter’s ‘boys’ had damaged the 1983 World Cup trophy. Sunil Gavaskar wriggled in agony when asked about the bcci incident on television. But he remained silent.

The Beautiful People are far too compromised to speak up with any authority. To criticise power in any meaningful way. Traditional spaces and forums at the elite level are shrinking. Any battle against it must begin by recognising that. Restoring public space is not going to be easy. But there’s a side we don’t try to look at enough. The fact that there is less debate in these forums does not mean an absence of debate itself.

We live in an age far more radical than many imagine. Hundreds of millions in this country are asserting their rights as never before. The last 15 years have seen tribal and Dalit assertion on a scale yet to be gauged, let alone understood. The Dalit upsurge has altered the politics of Uttar Pradesh irreversibly. And perhaps that of Tamil Nadu also. It is making dents elsewhere as well. In Andhra, the state assembly had its first debate on untouchability in decades. That, after a powerful movement against casteism forced the government on the defensive.

Tremendous new social energies are on the loose. They are chaotic but they are there. Fierce power battles are emerging at the panchayat level. Even this mere form of democracy has set off a backlash from the entrenched privilege of centuries. Still, millions seek human dignity against awesome odds. Struggles over common property resources are rocking the countryside. Battles over land are on in over three-quarters of the country. That these are poorly reported does not mean they are not on. But it does mean that forums which could once have discussed their implications are not doing so. They are busy making themselves irrelevant to mass aspirations.

Millions are not merely refusing to play the game by the old rules. They are simply not playing the old game at all. There is no institution that is not under challenge. Many are actually in the process of meltdown. This panics those who see no ‘solutions’. (Which means that the Beautiful People are finding their solutions tossed aside with contempt). Consequently, large chunks of the country are getting harder to govern. With all the negatives these processes entail, they also mean that rights and freedoms are being not only asserted but debated and redefined.

An incredible churning is under-way in India, but your media are unable to tell you about it. This is the space that the small journals, the local newspapers, have straddled in the past and which they can occupy again. The big press and other media, too, will be forced (not in the least by commercial considerations) to cover them as well. But that will likely be a case of too little too late. And what sort of a vision can they provide of what’s happening? One thing the big media are doing is abdicating vital spaces. How those can be accessed, the way those issues can be channelled, how they can be worked in the public interest – that’s another debate altogether. But those of us interested in the rights, dignity, freedoms and entitlements of hundreds of millions of Indians can work on it. After all, we know one thing at least.

They are worth a damn sight more than 43 paise.


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