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Modis silence doesn't augur well for India's democracy.
By Saket Suman:Even as camera-friendly and Internet-savvy Prime Minister Narendra Modi waxes eloquent on his "Beti Padhao Beti Bachao" campaign, the right-wing fringe elements openly threaten a leading actress -- an inspiration and role model for thousands of young Indian girls -- under his government's nose. Modi and his government have done nothing but maintain silence, ultimately amounting to indirect approval and further encouraging these elements. The volunteers of Shri Rajput Karni Sena had earlier physically assaulted "Padmavati" director Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the sets of the movie. It's deja vu as they are out on the streets again, mocking the "law and order" that Modi claims to have improved. While the controversy around the movie may be looked at from different lenses -- that of creative freedom and sentiments of a large community -- Mahipal Singh Makrana, president of the Rajasthan unit of the outfit, shamed his community as well as...




The fall and fall of Nitish Kumar
Nitish Kumar must have thought, therefore, that the time was ripe for him to up the ante on the caste issue if only to let the BJP know that he cannot be marginalised as the BJP has been tending to do since tying the knot with the Janata Dal (United).Amulya Ganguli,At one time, he was the poster boy of Indian politics. Not only did he slay the villain of Bihar's "jungle raj" in 2005 by rounding up lawless elements after winning an election and launching social and economic development projects, he also scored another resounding electoral victory in the company of a new set of friends, including the "villain", in 2015.It appeared at the time that he could do no wrong. So much so that he was seen as a possible prime ministerial candidate of the "secular" front.But, then, the rise and rise of Nitish Kumar came to an abrupt halt. He remains Bihar's Chief Minister, but the halo round his head has frayed.The reason is not only his switching of friends in what...




'Chhath' and the formation of Bihari identity
Sanjay Kumar, From complete ignorance of 70s to vague indifference of 80s to creeping curiosity of 90s to growing familiarity of the first decade to the inevitable acceptance of the second decade of the 21st century - the perception of 'Chhath' outside Bihar has undergone a complete metamorphosis. Even within Bihar, it used to be a mostly localised affair before turning into a marker of Bihari cultural identity. How and why did this transformation come about?  Historically, Bihar has been bereft of an overarching and dominant great tradition in the cultural realm. Be it dance or music or art or architecture or painting or other cultural aspects, the scale was essentially local. This could mainly be attributed to the absence of princely states in Bihar who patronized culture elsewhere leading to cultural efflorescence. The pathological impact of the permanent settlement meant the emergence of a hierarchy of exploitative Zamindars who had neither the wherewithal nor the inclinatio...




Critical need to ensure freedom of India's free press
Frank F. Islam, As an Indian American, I have had the privilege of living in the two largest democracies in the world. One of those, the United States of America, came into being in part because of the free press. The other, India, has the reputation of having the most vibrant and free press in the developing world.Since its establishment as a free nation, the free press in India has grown substantially and contributed significantly to the evolution of Indian democracy. Sadly, in recent times, the freedom of India's free press is seen to have been under threat.In September this year, well known journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh and television reporter Santanu Bhowmik were killed in separate incidents. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based NGO, over the past 25 years, there have been "41 instances" in which Indian journalists have been murdered "in direct reprisal for his or her work".Combine this violence upon journalists with a rai...




Rohingya crisis: Can India play a role?
Aroonim Bhuyan, New Delhi, Oct 22: As Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj begins her visit to Bangladesh, experts are of the view that it is high time India mediated to find a solution to the burning Rohingya refugee crisis."I am optimistic (about Sushma Swaraj's visit) as India enjoys cordial relations with Myanmar and has cooperative and friendly ties with Bangladesh," Rajiv Bhatia, former Indian Ambassador to Myanmar, told IANS."Our very wise Foreign Minister has a role to play and a sustainable solution should be found for the Rohingyas," he stated.According to the latest figures issued by the UN office in Bangladesh, over 600,000 refugees have entered the country since August 25 after the Myanmarese army launched a crackdown on the minority Rohingya community following a series of attacks on security personnel in Myanmar's Rakhine state.The Rohingyas do not enjoy citizenship status in Myanmar and are sparingly given refugee status in Bangladesh.Bhati...




Ban on crackers: Saffron angst about judiciary
This, indeed, is the crux of the Hindutva angst. For all the formal commitment to the constitution by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers when taking their oaths of office, the saffron lobby has always felt that something is not quite right about the legal framework. Amulya Ganguli,The Sangh Parivar is displeased with the judiciary. Its latest grouse is about the Supreme Court's ban on crackers.First off the block to express discontent was the Tripura governor, Tathagata Roy. Speaking as a Hindu since it would have been constitutionally improper for him to use Raj Bhavan stationery to issue a statement, he wondered whether the courts will crack down on cremations next.Following the governor's grouse, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary voiced the fear that diyas or the lamps lit during the Diwali festival might also be prohibited.Following these expressions of disquiet by the higher-ups in the saffron camp, posters written in Hindi -- the Parivar's lingua fra...




'The idea of a non-violent ancient India is a myth'
Ancient Indian history is full of episodes of bloody wars, succession struggles, patricide, fratricide, conflicts between states and forest people, and the killing of animals. There was also social conflict: Upinder Singh Saket Suman,  New Delhi, Oct 17: India's independence movement was built on the principle of non-violence but a new book by noted historian Upinder Singh, also the daughter of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, suggests that the idea of a non-violent ancient India is a myth that Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru "helped create" while driving the independence movement on the principle of non-violence.In "Political Violence in Ancient India" (Harvard University Press/Rs 999/pp 598), Upinder Singh, head of Delhi University's History Department, documents the "dynamic tension between violence and non-violence in ancient Indian political thought and practice over twelve hundred years".But what makes Singh reach the conclusion th...




Slowdown of Economy: An integrated effect
Salman Sultan, Leo Count Tolstoy beautifully describes the reason for Napoleon’s loss in the battle of Waterloo. In his epic ‘War and Peace’, Tolstoy attributes integration of significantly smaller events leading to the defeat of celebrated war strategist like Napoleon Bonaparte. Waterloo situated near Brussels is a plain with a prominent mound. In a battle field it is advantageous to have a vintage point on some height from where not only one has a bird’s eye view but it is easier to rain down bullets. The reason for Napoleon’s late arrival at Waterloo, thus losing the advantage of securing strategically important position on top of mound, has been attributed to heavy rainfall. The slush formed due to rain was so slippery that Napoleon’s cavalry slowed down and this sluggish movement was further compounded by indisposition of his soldiers. Suffice is to say that as per Tolstoy one should not just think of major events but integration of seemingly s...




Alwar, Dadri show why violent cow vigilantism will continue
IndiaTomorrow.net, New Delhi, Oct 15: Exactly a month after the Rajasthan Police dropped probe against six named accused in the Pehlu Khan lynching case of Alwar, news has come that 15 youths accused in the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri have got job at a state-run company NTPC. These developments were bound to embolden other gangs of cow vigilantes and they did indeed. The Rajasthan police dropped probe against the accused in Alwar case on 14 Sep. The news about the accused in Dadri case has come on 14 Oct -- and on the same day, five Muslims were brutally assaulted by a gang of Gau Rakshaks in Faridabad near Delhi.   Howsoever strongly Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks against violence in the name of cow, cow vigilantism is unlikely to stop if accused are not punished, instead are rewarded in some cases.   Five Muslim youths from Faridabad district of Haryana were thrashed by cow vigilantes who suspected them of transporting beef in Mujessar area, followin...




By playing Hindutva game for decades, Congress helped BJP rise
Saeed Naqvi,How indistinguishable the Congress ideologically is from the BJP was the theme of the main edit page article written by French scholars Christophe Jaffrelot and Gilles Verniers in the Indian Express on October 5.The editor grasped the heart of the matter and gave it an apt headline: Congress and the BJP, "Tweedledum and Tweedledee". The Jaffrelot-Verniers duo focused on Gujarat -- on how principal leaders have repeatedly swung from one side to the other like trapeze artistes in a circus.I suspect this is the beginning of a wider research because the Tweedledum-Tweedledee image is applicable to all regions wherever there is some Congress presence. In most places it looks like the BJP's B team -- and has conceded space to it for that very reason.In recent decades there have been two distinct postures the Congress has struck towards the BJP. In Madhya Pradesh, under the leadership of Arjun Singh and Digvijay Singh, the party took the BJP head on. There was no other f...




Modi has realised a presidential style of governance not suitable for India
Amulya Ganguli, It has taken more than three years for Narendra Modi to realise that a presidential style of governance is not suitable for a country of India's size and complexity.The Prime Minister may have found it easy to preside over Gujarat's destiny with his personalised style of politics where he was a cut above the others in the government and party. But India is different.Hence his decision to set up an Economic Advisory Council to assist him in the framing of policy instead of pursuing an agenda in accordance with his own instincts and with inputs from the Finance Minister and the Chief Economic Adviser.If anything substantiates the dire prognosis of former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the economy, it is the roping in of experts from outside Modi's charmed circle.What it also shows is the non-fulfilment -- at least for the present -- of the expectation of "vikas" which was Modi's trump card in 2014. Ironically, one of the r...




A mission to ensure a nuclear-free South Asia --- and why it failed
Vikas Datta, Title: Neighbours in Arms: An American Senator's Quest for Disarmament in a Nuclear Subcontinent; Author: Larry Pressler; Publisher: Penguin Random House India; Pages: 304; Price: Rs 699Could the North Korean nuclear issue, which is giving the world an anxious time due to the presence of hotheads on either side, the invasion of Iraq and its toxic fallout, and above all, the arms race in the teeming but impoverished South Asian subcontinent have been averted if a crucial piece of US legislation had been implemented honestly?It is a tantalising "what if" scenario, especially for the prospect of a more peaceful South Asia, but it could have well worked, says the American lawmaker whose name became linked to an effective but short-lived effort towards this end -- one which went on to make him revered in India, reviled in Pakistan and ended his political career."The US government had enough carrots and sticks to control the spread of nuclear weapons in the 1980s ...




Nitish must have realised by now that his 'ghar wapsi' has not helped him
Amulya Ganguli, Nitish Kumar must have realised by now that his 'ghar wapsi' hasn't helped him. The BJP is treating him more like an unwanted guest than the repentant prodigal son.The Bihar Chief Minister's sense of being redundant in the BJP's scheme of things is likely to intensify in view of the reports that the BJP intends to contest 25 of the 40 parliamentary seats in Bihar in 2019, leaving a paltry nine to the Janata Dal-United.Of the remaining six, the BJP is considering giving four to the Lok Janshakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan, another somewhat morose camp follower of the saffron brotherhood, and two to Upendra Kushwaha's Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP).If this kind of seat-sharing really does take place, then Sharad Yadav may well have the last laugh. His glee will be shared by Lalu Prasad for more than one reason.First, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader knows that he will be able to present the downsizing of Nitish Kumar in the saffron camp as an insult to Bihar.Second...




Pehlu Khan Lynching & Batla House Encounter
Salman Sultan, Pehlu Khan was transporting milch cattle, bought in a genuine purchase, when he was accosted by so-called ‘Gau Rakshaks’ who took law into their hands and clobbered Pehlu Khan into a dead body in front of his son. In a CID-CB enquiry, Police officials could not find evidence of the presence of accused named in, nonetheless, a dying declaration of Pehlu Khan. As per enquiry, accused could not be located (cell phone data) in time and space with the place of gruesome murder. In a TV report, it was told that the Cows belonging to Pehlu Khan is now in possession of one of the accused who maintains a Cow shelter. Therefore, a daring theft preceded the murder. The enquiry has not bothered to explain presence of Cows belonging to Pehlu Khan in Shri Rath Sarvajanik Gaushala of Dahmi village, owned by one of the alleged assailant ‘Jagmal Yadav’.   Time and again these so-called ‘Gau Rakshaks’ have taken law into their hands in the name o...




Indian Muslims Should Embrace Triple Talaq Verdict
Frank F. Islam, On August 22, the Supreme Court ruled that triple talaq -- the practice which allows a man to divorce his wife instantly by saying the word talaq thrice -- is unconstitutional. Predictably, the ruling was denounced by a number of Muslim leaders and organisations. Some interpreted it as an attack on their religion and way of life. Others saw a conspiracy angle in the importance given to an issue.This perspective is desperate and distorted. This perspective is not only wrong but also wrong-headed, misplaced and misguided.I applaud this judgement because I strongly believe that Muslim instant divorce is illegal and incorrect in many ways. Instant divorce is deplorable, disgraceful and shameful. In addition, it is demeaning, demonising, disheartening and demoralising to Indian Muslim women.Most importantly, as one of the judges pointed out, triple talaq is against the basic tenets of the Quran. Recognising this, many Islamic countries, including two of India's large Muslim ...




Emperor Ashoka and Persecuted Rohingyas
Salman Sultan, Emperor Ashoka ascended Magadhan throne as new Maurya ruler in 273 B.C. Following the policy of Magadhan Kings of aggression and conquest, Ashoka invaded Kalinga in the ninth year of his reign. Though Ashoka was victorious inflicting heavy casualties on Kalingans but witnessing the horrific effect of his conquest made him regret. His heart was filled with sorrow and despair. Consequently, he relinquished the policy of aggression and conquest in favour of peace and non-violence. To repent his deeds resulting in such devastation of Kalingans, Ashoka turned to Buddhism.   As per legend Siddharta Gautama born (623 B.C) into a ruling caste family was protected by his father to such an extent that he never witnessed suffering of people. However, one day he wandered into a park area of his kingdom where he was impressed by the calm and composure of a sage who was consoling suffering people and has even kept himself composed while passing through a corpse. Siddharta ...




India Must not Be Seen to be Uncaring about Rohingyas
Amulya Ganguli, The Union Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju, is looking for a round of applause for not driving the Rohingya refugees in India into the sea or shooting them; all that he wants is their deportation.It is, however, doubtful whether the process of exiling them will be uncomplicated since it is bound to raise humanitarian concerns in India and elsewhere.It is not easy to harshly deny shelter to a group which has had to leave their own country, viz, Myanmar, in dire circumstances.Rijiju probably believes that branding them as potential terrorists since they are Muslims will be persuasive enough. But it is not an argument which will be readily accepted.Moreover, the issue of deportation has been complicated by, first, Myanmar's reluctance to accept them and, secondly, by the unwillingness of the emigrants themselves to return to a "home" which they no longer consider safe in view of the recent army actions against them.Even if the Myanmar army was targeting t...




Demonetisation Was a Catastrophe: Marc Faber
New Delhi, Sep 8: Demonetisation was a catastrophe which couldn't achieve the objectives it aimed for, Marc  Faber, editor and publisher of economic and financial publication 'The Gloom, Boom and Doom Report', said on Friday."We all know demonetisation has been a catastrophe. It didn't achieve its objectives. It could have been done in a benign way, giving a period of six months wherein old notes could be exchanged so that nobody suffered," Faber told BTVi in an interview.He said that the move was based on academics wherein the people in the government had no clue of how the market functioned.Faber said the note ban did aim at targeting organised crime, which gets a boost from abundance of cash. But they too have other means to lend out money these days, he added.Touching upon the Goods and Services Tax (GST), he said that the rates are quite high under the new indirect tax regime, which would encourage black marketing.Demonetisation and GST roll-out also affected India'...




India Should Take Humane View of Rohingya Refugees
Bawa Singh, Given its rich mineral resources, historical and civilisational ties and strategic location, sharing maritime and land borders, Myanmar holds a pivotal position in India's Act East policy. However, Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have become a serious security concern not only for Myanmar, India and Bangladesh, but for the entire region.Prime Minister Narendra Modi is currently in Myanmar (September 5-7). The Rohingya refugee issue is likely to be taken up during his discussions to resolve this shadow over bilateral and regional security.Rohingya refugees have serious security implications for Southeast and South Asia given their vulnerabilities, allowing many to be picked up by terrorist groups. According to the Human Rights Watch Report 2017, the ethnic cleansing campaign in Myanmar has been on since June 2012. It has become the most serious and widespread form of violence against the Rohingyas.Operations carried out by government security forces against Rohingyas led to g...




US Needs A Comprehensive, Strategic Immigration System To Revitalize Itself
Frank F. Islam, There is no question that our current immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. It's been that way for some time.  During 2013, Congress spent a considerable amount of talent and energy trying to find an approach to immigration reform that was workable. The Senate managed to pass a bi-partisan bill but things ground to a halt in the House.  Since then, there has been a lot of talk but no real action on immigration reform. Deportations of illegal immigrants have gone up. "Building a wall" became one of the primary talking points of the presidential primaries and campaign. But nothing has changed from a substantive or policy standpoint.  Now, Donald Trump has put forward an immigration proposal titled Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (Raise Act or Act) which calls for a shift to a skills-based immigration system from a family-based immigration system.  The Raise Act has caused qui...




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