Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rohith Vemula’s death By Tanweer Alam - The Times of India

My comments on Times of India webpage over Tanweer Alam's article: Rohit Vemula's death:

Inline image 1Ghulam MuhammedMumbai4 mins ago

Though the article is couched in language that some might object to, as politically incorrect, the fact remains, that the death of Vemula, has starkly focused on Supremacist Brahmin's casteist policies whether on community level or individual level, and has become common ground for both Muslims and Dalit to come on ONE PLATFORM to stand against such intolerance. (Intolerance, where human life is threatened, is decidedly a much understated charge.) While Muslims had remained for the Supremacist Brahmins, as THE OTHER, with Muslims and Dalit sharing common discrimination and coming together, it is the Supremacist that may become THE OTHER for the new emerging coalition.

Rohith Vemula’s death was an opportunity for Indian Muslims to express solidarity with other underprivileged groups

January 28, 2016, 1:41 AM IST  in TOI Edit Page | Edit PageIndia | TOI

India’s Muslim leadership (political, social, religious) seems caught in a bind – even a time warp – making it akin to a species bound towards extinction. Fascinated by selfcreated narratives of victimhood and marginalisation, the community leadership is rarely able to empathise with other similarly marginalised groups – dalits, tribals, women, the poor of all castes and faith communities that make up a distinct category in themselves.
One remembers the great Urdu poet Ghalib’s couplet: Rakhio Ghalib mujhe is talkh nawai me ma’af/ aaj kuchh dard mere dil mein sawa hota hai (Pardon me for this unpleasant talk, Ghalib/ today I have severe pain in my heart).
The “severe pain in my heart” is caused by the cold indifference of the faith community’s leaders over the death of Rohith Vemula, a bright dalit scholar at the University of Hyderabad. His avoidable death was planned in a Machiavellian fashion by some ghoulish minds. Only technically was it a suicide.
By talking about the lukewarm response of the Muslim leadership one is not denying that a very small segment of it has shown solidarity with people protesting Rohith’s death. But the general perception among common Muslims is that they are the most discriminated against, marginalised and oppressed group in the country. Sociologist Imtiaz Ahmed recently said – during a talk in Jamia Nagar, Delhi – that this was not the whole truth and several other groups share these difficulties with Muslims.
The silence of Muslim leaders from mainstream political parties on this issue is understandable as they generally are bound to follow the party line. But what is stopping Muslim organisations, community/ religious leaders, activists, intellectuals from taking a position on issues of national importance? Why don’t they get involved in the struggle for larger causes?
Former foreign minister Salman Khurshid writes, in his book At Home in India: The Muslim Saga, “I have always strongly believed that political leaders from the minority communities need to speak on issues that concern the majority community or on those at least that can be described to be of relevance beyond their own communities. It is important for our democracy that in theory and in practical terms Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or others be seen as leaders of the country and not of their communities alone.”
This is not to deny that the Muslim community suffers from illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, systemic discrimination and institutionalised prejudice. But there are other groups also which face similar, if not the same problems.
Muslims expect and get support from other social groups, including upper class, privileged Hindus. Other groups too expect, rightly, that the Muslim community speak on matters affecting them.
Despite periodic pogroms against Muslims, they still remain one of the biggest beneficiaries of democracy in India. Nowhere in the world has such a large population of Muslims enjoyed 68 years of uninterrupted democracy. It reflects the vision of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who was asked, after Partition, how he saw the future of Muslims in a divided India. Azad said they would thrive if democracy thrived.
However, Muslims do not seem to be participating in the process of strengthening democracy. They need to internalise the processes and norms of democracy. They must participate in major discourses in the country and stand up for the marginalised, whether they are LGBT, dalits, Sikhs, Christians, tribals, women or working classes.
Outrage over intolerance has been a major political development in the country. But seldom has a prominent Muslim organisation or community leader participated in programmes organised against it.
Muslims of India should keep in mind that the country is enveloped by a single political and moral ecology. We cannot survive outside this complex web of social concerns, struggles and relationships. Our national life is, and has got to be, run according to the lofty standards set by the Constitution.
We must take care to protect democracy and human rights. It’s only then that the Indian political ecology will be protected. That we have failed Rohith should always remind us not to fail other Indians.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

Stephen Gets A Straight Answer Out Of Donald Rumsfeld

Monday, January 25, 2016

A tale of two Republics - By Sreeram Sundar Chaulia - Edit Page article @ The Times of India, Mumbai

My comments posted on Times of India webpage article: A Tale of Two Republics written by Shreeram Chualia, on this India's 76th Republic Day:

Mumbai1 min ago

Whatever may be the antecedents of India-France interactions of the past, the immediate need for the two Republics cannot be explained without referring to the Paris attacks, by alleged Muslim terrorists. Incidentally, both France and India, despite their roots in democracy and socialism, are now faced by the reality of a resurgent Muslim minority in their midst that is led by the fringe elements calling themselves Muslims. Besides, there are strong indications, that some of the terror attacks are engineered by security agencies with some convoluted justification to keep the mass of Muslims under pressure. The sad fact is that all adopted policies of both governments are creating more unrest, more reaction, even instigating and provoking the silent majority of Muslims to at least sympathizing with the fringe elements posing as Muslims. Unless this is all planned and is the next step in the ongoing longer-term global strategies of Neo-cons to fashion a New World Order, there is no reason to be panicky and overreaction. For India, to join the West, in its New World Order strategies, at this juncture, when it needs to avoid violence at all costs, to see the nation of 1 Billion people stand on its tottering baby-feet and move towards development and progress, will be suicidal. "

A tale of two Republics

January 26, 2016, 1:24 AM IST 

Sreeram Sundar ChauliaSreeram Sundar Chaulia
Sreeram Sundar Chaulia is dean, Jindal School of International Affairs.
Hollande’s visit is an occasion to reflect on what India and France have to teach each other
French President François Hollande’s presence as chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade today is an occasion not just to advance cooperation in economic and strategic fields, but also to reflect on republics as systems of government and how they continuously learn from each other.
France is a leading example of a republic among modern nation-states, boasting a philosophical tradition of limits on absolute state power, people’s participation in governance and promotion of enlightened citizenship. French républicanisme, enshrined in revolutionary mottos like “liberty, equality and fraternity”, was a major inspiration for the founding fathers of the Indian republic.
The fundamental rights in our Constitution carry forward the legacy of the legendary 1789 document, ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’, enacted by France’s National Constituent Assembly. If post-independence India assumed the mantle of a democracy which vested power in the will of the people rather than in the hands of a monarch or an organised religious entity, the conceptual origins of this model derived from the ideals of multiple French republics.
By sustaining a constitutionally governed liberal republic far better than fellow developing countries, India is living up to the eternal truths enunciated by French intellectuals. The doctrine of separation of powers among legislature, executive and judiciary, which has enabled India to avert excessive concentration of power in any one person or group, owes to the French thinker Montesquieu who advocated designing government such that “no man need be afraid of another”.
The checks and balances which helped India avoid destructive dictatorships and civil wars have a distinct French feel, although they were adapted to suit a uniquely Indian context. On our Republic Day we must take a bow to another pioneering mind of the French republic, Rousseau, whose concept of the “social contract” shaped republics worldwide by establishing responsibility of rulers to the ruled as a fundamental principle of politics.
Rousseau’s call for people to obey only “legitimate powers” through direct democratic means and to oppose coercive rule was an emancipatory doctrine. The father of our Constitution, B R Ambedkar, often quoted Rousseau to amplify his vision of social justice in India and maintained that “everyone from the labouring classes should be acquainted with Rousseau’s The Social Contract”.
Rousseau’s early alarm bells about “a handful of people gorging themselves on superfluities, while the starving multitudes lack the basic necessities of life” set a benchmark of socioeconomic equality for republics to emulate. Radical French republicanism is the ancestor of President Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party. It is equally an influence on Indian political ideologies of various hues that claim to be devoted to the “poorest of the poor”.
Yet, despite the richness of ideas transferred from France to India, the land of Montesquieu and Rousseau faces arduous challenges for the future. The core pillar of France’s republican values – laïcité or constitutional secularism – has become so rigid that it is impeding integration of Muslim immigrants who comprise 10% of the French population.
Islamophobia is on the rise in France, as evidenced by the growing popularity of extreme rightist political parties such as the National Front, which mask their xenophobia and racism by harking to French republicanism. The defence of the “French republic” is nowadays a thinly disguised code to force Muslims in France to abandon expression of their cultural symbols and willingly conform to majoritarian ways of life.
France is struggling under the combined weight of prolonged economic crisis and widening social cleavages, which are being exploited by terrorist outfits such as Islamic State. The Paris attacks and their aftermath have shaken up the spirit of a French republic that is unable to readjust itself to a multicultural 21st century environment.
Here, there is something India can teach France in return. Our openness to refugees and our more mature acceptance of multiple faiths and ethnicities holds lessons for France, which is being torn apart by identity-based fragmentation. Since inception, the Indian republic has defined its secularism not as a denialist technique to suppress freedom of faith and belief but to celebrate the equal expression of a bewildering array of identities.
While illiberal tendencies do crop up as problems in Indian politics and society, the fabric of coexistence and tolerance is robust in our country. The Indian republic is more secure than that of France thanks to our ethos of “unity in diversity”, which is an improvisation upon the American republic’s motto of “e pluribus unum” (out of many, one).
Divisions based on religion, caste, race, language and region exist in India, but we have built a relatively harmonious national identity which gives space to parochial loyalties instead of trying to smother them, as is the case in France.
The flexibility of Indians to be simultaneously “this” (immediate and local) and “that” (national and global) is one of the secrets of the longevity and vitality of our republic. As France undergoes agonising internal debates in the face of threats from Islamist terror, and grapples with reinterpretation of its fraught laïcité policies, there is merit in recalibrating its republic by adopting best practices that have worked in India.
Our two nations are cooperating in practical fields of defence, intelligence sharing, energy security and geopolitics. But we must also exchange wisdom at a deeper level – as proud republics.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

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