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Archive for the category “CURTAIN RAISER”

Anatomy of the ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’

Each time you watched Rahul Gandhi take to the stage during his Gujarat election campaigns and explain before a waiting crowd that the GST is nothing but ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, you must have wondered what’s wrong with the man. Whether he’s really a dumb, fit enough for his famous sobriquet ‘Pappu’? You must have squirmed in disgust as to how a responsible politician can mislead the masses. Simultaneously, you must have got curious to know which school Rahul Gandhi got his economics lessons from.

However, let me tell you he’s perfectly all right and that he’s got his lessons from the best school of a politician – the dusty by-lanes of Indian politics.

Politics is all about reaching out to the masses and making an everlasting connect with them; it’s a bonding made stronger with deft communication, apt vocabulary and noisy rhetoric. The greater your ability to connect with the rank and file of the profanum vulgus, the better is your chances in politics. Add a bit of theatrics and voila! You’ve got what it takes.

After 17 or so defeats in successive elections, Rahul Gandhi now seems to have learnt the ropes. Many political observers and analysts believe that Rahul has found his tongue. He’s discovered the art of communication, at least to the best of his limitations. ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ serves the best example.

GST brought with it two ‘miseries’ to the common people; the first, disruption in normal economic activities of the small traders and second, complexities. Close on the heels of demonetization, GST brought another commotion in the life of the common man, especially small traders and businessmen. They’ve their experiences to believe GST is bad but the government has its data to prove it’s good. In the scenario, a clever politician knows that theoretically speaking, GST can’t be opposed. It can be defeated only through canards and polemics.

A polemic of lies and derision is the best anecdote to constructive ideas.

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‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ invented that polemic of lies which the disgruntled aam aadmi was looking for and Rahul Gandhi made the most of it. The masses were exhilarated at the description. Each time Gandhi twisted the microphone and uttered the phrase ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, the crowd went berserk in jubilation and he listened to the catcalls of the jeering audience with a conceited smirk. He knew he had given expression to the anger of the millions. He didn’t know himself what it exactly meant. He need not, either. His job was done.

No amount of pedantic discourse or academic description can destroy the effects of a ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ narrative. Today, no one remembers what Arun Jaitley said to counter the Gabbar Singh jibe, though he said all those academically correct things. Yet, people only remember what Rahul said. And that’s the art of making a connect. 

A good many people are disenchanted in some way or other and a section of media has worked overtime to prove that the government policies are anti-people. Mainstreaming the cash economy and forcing people to live in transparent glasshouses has its own challenges.

The political wisdom says a politician must use the situation to the best of his abilities. Hence, the Congress has exploited the disenchantment of the masses to the best of its ability and fed on the ignorance of the people. Gandhi knows that the aam aadmi, like him, has no appetite for facts or analysis nor it believes in lengthy explanations. The common man needs off-the-shelf concepts, and few catchphrases, to describe his pent up emotions. The ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, fits the bill precisely. In this political campaign, the government hit the hustings with facts, figures and analysis and it lost audience. The Congress hit the campaign with polemic and lies and it struck an instant chord with the masses. The media, always hungry for the catchphrases, multiplied the effect.

In the post-truth politics, what matters more is perception and catchphrases do wonderful jobs in shaping perception. It may be a lie or bullshit is another matter. Politics, anyway, is never about teaching the truth. Nor it’s about accountability. Misleading the masses is intelligent so long it fetches votes. And, Gandhi needs votes. 

So, you thought ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ is a sheer bullshit. But then you thought of university economics. For politics, ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ is an intelligent theorem. It fetches votes. As I said earlier, economics is the best means to harness politics. Hence, no wonder if the ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ catchphrase enables the Congress and its new chief recover some of the lost grounds in Gujarat.

KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri, 2017

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Demonetization and Post-truth politics

 

“Somewhere ages and ages hence,

Two roads diverged in a wood, 

and I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference”

Robert Frost, by his above couplets, tried to assure the world that a road, not taken by anyone, might make all the difference when taken by someone. The key lies in being different, and of course, bold. Demonetization is one such road never taken by anywhere else in the world though on the first anniversary of Demonetization, we can see it has certainly made a lot of difference.

Has it? Well, beware! You’re in the era of post-truth.

Post-truth politics – a phenomenon where public opinions are mobilized on the basis of emotional appeals rather than hard facts and where factual rebuttals find no takers – has played its full inning during the historic act of demonetization in India. In today’s world, truth is like a desperate man – mauled, distraught and down to his knees – pleading before one and all to be heard, believed and sympathized. But, it’s lie – smarter, trickier and satanic – that rules the roost. No facts, no stats, no data is of help to the truth. Ravished from the reality, the fact has been engineered, cloned and mutated into suave set of arguments, ready to take on the truth.

In modern world, it’s ‘truth’ versus the ‘mutant truth’; there’s nothing in between called a ‘lie’, which eventually is a dirty word. Riding on the brawny wave of the Internet, the ‘mutant’ truth goes far and wide to convince the world that truth is nothing but a humungous lie. Reality is complicated.

Demonetization is one such reality, which is complicated by the conundrum of the post-truth politics. With ‘mutants’ flying thick and fast, you’ll never come to know what is ‘real’. So, does taking the road less travelled-by make a difference?

The economists, the political class, the intellectuals and the aam aadmi, all remained sharply divided over the need, efficacy and outcome of demonetization over the past one year since it was announced on November 8th last year. Even global economists remained sharply divided with some hailing the decision as historic while others running it down as a “despotic act causing misery to the people”.

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So, from delight to disaster, from relief to pain, from hope to misery, from probity to loot, demonetization has bore the brunt of arguments laden with pride, prejudices, optimism and opprobrium. However, most of the analysis coming out from the experts suffered from the post-truth phenomenon where truth remained a victim of perception and where prejudices became a means to mobilize public opinion. 

However, this article is not about what are the advantages or disadvantages of demonetization. You’ve heard enough of it and, maybe, have grown wary of it. This article is about action performed in the face of difficult choices, about decisions in a dead-end situation and about showing courage in face of daunting challenges. Corruption and black economy need a long-term solution and the nation voted the BJP for this task. The BJP did something to this end. It definitely was a painful action but who says surgeries are not painful?

In Demonetization, the government risked immense dangers – people’s anger, unpopularity, criticism, economic collapse, mass discontent, political upheavals, street protests and so on. Modi risked his political future. He, like his predecessors, had a safer option – give up this bizarre idea and, instead, set off few cosmetic actions that would satisfy many constituencies. But, he embarked upon what was the toughest one. He tried, fought odds and didn’t blink, no matter how it meandered.

All throughout this, the opposition did what it was best at – spreading misinformation and canards. It ran down demonetization as a monumental failure before setting off a massive disinformation campaign, exploiting emotions. It left no stone unturned to disconnect the masses with facts and realities.

Interestingly, no one from the opposition camp had any clue on the alternatives. If Demonetization were bad, what would be a better idea to combat corruption and the black economy? Silence! Running down a great idea is easier but suggesting alternatives that couldn’t be faulted by others is difficult. So, the opposition chose what was easier.

“The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character” – Margaret Chase Smith, the US politician had aptly said and Modi stood to this test in best of his moral character.

Modi pulled it off not only by the courage of his conviction alone but also by his determination and a sincere desire to do something for the country. Providence had given him a chance and he made the most of it. Criticism doesn’t matter so long you’re driven by the idea of collective good of society. Modi did what Bhagvat Geeta taught him – perform your honest duties without attaching to its effects and that’s the meaning of a true yogi, which he eventually comes up to be:

“Yoga-sthah kuru karmani

Sangam tyaktava Dhananjaya

Siddhi asiddhyoh samo bhutva

Samatvam yoga uchhayte”

                                                           (Bhagvat Geeta 2.48)

(Perform your duties equipoised, O Arjun, abandoning all attachment to success and failures. Such equanimity of mind is known as yoga) 

Only a yogic determination could have pulled off such a brilliant coup against the menace of black money and corruption. As Shakespeare rued in his Dark lady Sonnets, “in the old age, black was not counted fair, or if it were, it bore no beauty’s name”, so it happened in post-Demonetization era also: Black looked no longer beautiful.

The road less travelled-by shall make the difference if you’re willing to apply elements of patience in your expectations. And yes, you’d be required to shed some of that ugly flab of your balky prejudices.

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Well, for a moment, let’s assume Demonetization failed. Let’s gloss over all the benefits it threw to the society. So what even if it failed? It still stands out as an honest attempt by a committed government to do something against the biggest scourge facing our nation and society; it was an act of moral courage taken up with unparalleled conviction for bringing collective betterment. Those never fail who fail in a good cause.

It’s time to see through the ‘mutant truth’. Demonetization was a moment to stand up and be counted and Modi made the most of it. To the extent he failed, isn’t it better to do something and fail than to do nothing and keep cribbing about?

The verdict is yours.

KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri, 2017

Happy New Year

 

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Times come and go, leaving behind footprints of memories and experiences; each passing moment leaves a trail from which arises promises of newer times laced with hopes and opportunities of a better future. As 2016 bowed out and 2017 stepped in to take charge of our destinies, we naturally have reasons to be eager to look into what promises the year holds for us, or to find out what possibilities we may fit in.

To a great many of people, a change of a year is nothing more than change of a date, or a change of calendars on the wall; their life situations, their daily struggles, their desperate fight for humble needs, their continuing urge for betterment, their maddening rush for job, career, growth, professional upliftment and children’s prospects, their anxiety of falling behind in life and their fear of failures, defeats, losses, setbacks – all remain the same.

Yet, people wait for New Year. Why? Well, they do because each new thing comes with new possibilities; the ‘new’ entails freshness, evolution, betterment, reformation, improvement, optimism and hope; the new entails positivity, dynamism, energy and action. It connotes evolution of ideas and their consolidation; it denotes cumulative impact of processes that are born with unquiet minds and restive imaginations. Hence, we welcome the ‘new’, which, in short, entails ‘change’. Change is always laden with optimism and hope, which keeps us moving despite failures, fears, anxieties and those infelicitous kicks in the teeth.  

With a new year, we look forward to all these positivity to grace our path – we want this dynamism, energy, betterment and freshness to enrich our ways; we wish our days high on optimism and hope, and bless all our near ones with the same wish.

The year 2016 saw many big initiatives being taken in India that carry potentials not only to revolutionize the nation but also to change our collective existence as citizens. That way, the outgoing year 2016 shall stand out as a watershed period in the great divide of time. Demonetization of high value currency notes, drive to bring in digital economy through cashless transactions and digital payments, introduction of an indirect tax revolution in form of GST are among one of those initiatives that is sure to change the way we live as Indians. But, on top of these, I believe the most important take-away from 2016, that is going to create the maximum impact on our lives, is the message that we, as a citizen, need to mend our ethical fabric and tattered values . The battle to fight black money has now entered the domain of ethics and morality.

In its gigantic fight against black money, this government has taken the battle right into the backyard of citizens where they’re required to subject themselves to a disquieting self-introspection in order to find out whether they carry their own culpability in perpetuating the scourge of black money. Fighting the menace of corruption isn’t a responsibility of the government alone; the citizens need to chip in with their scripted roles.

To me, the biggest take away from 2016 is the government’s passionate appeal to the collective conscience of the nation to rise up to the occasion, and to offer our individual senses of greed, cunningness, dishonesty and malfeasance as oblation and libation in the sacrificial fire of nation-building.

I hope, this call to our inner self doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Once our collective conscience is set right we might evolve as citizens of characters and march ahead with the common goal on mission to make India a great nation. The government knows that more than strong laws and statutory rules, what we need more now are stronger conscience and moral values. Well, to be honest, we don’t know what the effort would finally end up in and how the things would shape from here. Yet, I’ve strong conviction that we’re all set to begin the task of repairing the soul of the nation.

It is this hope and optimism that I carry forward in 2017. Thus, I’ve reasons to welcome the New Year with a joyous fervor and zeal.

 Happy New Year!

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No Sky Is Going To Fall If Raghu Ram Rajan exits RBI

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Our first perception of right and wrong”, argued Adam Smith once, “can’t be the object of reason, but of immediate sense and feelings.” This can’t be more true than it is in the case of Raghu Ram Rajan, whose decision to leave the Reserve Bank of India at completion of his term on September 4, 2016, has created shockwaves all across. The media, the intelligentsia and the socialites are falling over one another in making out a case that Rajan’s imminent exit, or “Rexit”, as it is called, would be the end of everything good in the Indian economy. And worse, they claim it reflects shoddily on the way the present central government functions.

Mr Rajan certainly deserves a big hand for the outstanding works he’s done and for his achievements during these three years at the central bank since 2013. He reined in the rampaging inflation and tamed it to a cheery level of 3.8%, checked the runaway rupee and stabilized it, gave license to two universal banks and opened 11 payment banks, adopted Consumer Price Index (CPI) as the key indicator of the inflation replacing the deceptive WPI, helped an unprecedented build-up of forex reserves that now touches US$ 360 billions and kicked off a herculean drive to cleanse the banking sector of their bad loans which is now cumulatively touching Rs. 4 lakh crore. Thumps up to what he’s done because none of these is a mean task. But does this give the R3 a smooth ticket to sail through his second inning in the central bank? No. And, that’s why I find many of the reactions of the media and the intelligentsia over-the-top.

Well, it’s much to do with Dr. Raghu Ram Rajan serious disagreements with the Modi Government over the macro-economic policies. He’s voiced his opinion in unequivocal terms that Modi Government’s flagship program ‘Make in India’ is not going to take the country anywhere.

In June 2015, he took to the forum of Bharat Ram Memorial lecture and created ripples by saying that India’s export-led growth strategy through the ambitious ‘Make in India’ campaign of the Modi Govt wouldn’t succeed because of a global economic slow-down. See what he said:

There is a danger when we discuss “Make in India” it means a focus on manufacturing, and an attempt to follow the export-led growth path that China followed. Slow-growing industrial countries will be much less likely to be able to absorb a substantial additional amount of imports in the foreseeable future…the world as a whole is unlikely to be able to accommodate another export-led China.”

Rajan’s solution is that the Make in India campaign should focus more on ‘Make for India’ type strategies. He suggested, “We are more dependent on the global economy than we think. That it is growing more slowly and is more inward-looking, means we have to look to regional and domestic demand for our growth to make in India primarily for India.”

Further, he believes that instead of focussing on labour-intensive industries, the Govt should create an opportunity for all sectors of economy to grow. “Instead of subsidizing inputs to specific industries because they are deemed important or labour-intensive, a strategy that has not really paid off for us over the years, let us figure out the public goods each sector needs, and strive to provide them,” he added.

Dr. Rajan is an economist, a top-notch one, having the reputation of foreseeing the 2007-08 sub-prime crisis and the subsequent global economic melt-down. Like all heroes, Rajan, too, must walk with his halo stuck firmly behind him. But, he’s not infallible. He walks on his own feet of clay.

Rajan has consistently failed to satisfy the question as to how a labour-dependent nation like India, with existing labour count to the tune of 480 millions, is going to solve the employment questions for the millions of labour pouring each year into the market with little or scant skills? PM Modi came to power in 2014 on the promises of jobs to 100 million youths. How that promise is going to be kept?

The Make in India program, together with National Skill Development Mission that aims to train 400 millions of youth into various low and middle level employable skills by 2022, is central to the promise of the Modi Government to give employment to the youth. The idea is centered around making India a global manufacturing hub on the strength of a huge labour pool and few strong traditional occupations, such as leather industry.

“Make in India has the potential to emerge as a force multiplier to provide the emerging workforce with new livelihood opportunities.” Says Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, CII.

A labour-surplus nation, historically and empirically, flourishes through a sound manufacturing-based economy than a service sector-based economy as of US, of which Rajan is a big proponent. The majority of Indian workforce, comprising mainly of a low-skilled rural population, just out of agriculture with low or negligent skills, would take decades to fit into the US-styled service economies’ schemas.

Thus, it goes without saying that the Make in India campaign needs an unflinching and unqualified support from various agencies, especially from Government ones, and hence a person, sitting at such a crucial position as the head of the country’s central bank, with his explicit and unequivocal scepticism over this ambitious program, would as well be a huge stumbling block as it would be an embarrassment to the government.

Secondly, Rajan’s claim that the globally slowing economy wouldn’t be able to absorb India’s manufacturing exports, is also not supported by empirical data. Another celebrated economist, Dr. Arvind Panagaria nails him on this count:

There is a common fallacy that exports can expand rapidly only in a rapidly growing world economy. Factually, from 1995 to 2013, when the Chinese exports grew by leaps and bounds, the OECD countries together grew only 1.4 per cent annually.”

Panagaria’s explanation for the success of Indian manufacturing exports is credible.

Conceptually, slow global growth can hinder export expansion only if several countries are expanding export of the same goods at the same time. This, however, is almost never the case. Historically, only a handful of the developing countries, at most, have simultaneously taken the path of growth led by the export of labour-intensive products. In the 1960s and 1970s, these were South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Then, as wages in these four East Asian tigers rose, China replaced them in the 1980s.”

As we can see, Rajan’s pessimism is unwarranted and doesn’t carry sound merits.

Thirdly, Dr Rajan’s emphasis on maintaining a high-interest rate regime with the sole objective of inflation-control is also damaging in the long run for the small and medium scale industries. This is one count on which he has drawn maximum flak from Dr. Subramanian Swami, his biggest critique. In a recent tweet Dr. Swami quoted an IMF report on India where a high-interest regime has been deprecated as being harmful.

IMF India Report No.16/75 says on page 34 “An upward shift in domestic interest rates continues to be a key risk for Indian corporates”, tweeted Dr. Swami.

Thus, Dr. Raghu Ram Rajan is not infallible. Despite all the hypes around his good works, we must never be oblivious of the imminent pitfalls lurking in his plausible decisions.

Well, all through this difference of approach between the Modi Government and the Governor of the RBI in steering the future course of Indian economy, I find myself aligned with Modi for the simple reason that the people of India have chosen him on his promises of better days where there would be abundant job and employment opportunities for the youth of India. Now, Modi has to fulfil this promise and for the same he must be given a free hand to choose his men and means.

Why I thought of writing this is because I found many of such articles and opinions published over the past weeks bemusing and over-the-top. Most of these lamenting men and women knew as much about economy as Alia Bhatt probably did about the rocket science. Shobha De was upset because Rajan was the only man who had brought sex into the Sensex by his boyish appeal. Many in the intelligentsia, nursing deep wounds against the present dispensation, had suddenly found a big stick in Rajan to beat Modi and his men with.

Rajan has not been sacked, removed or terminated though the media, all through this week-long jeremiads and chest-thumping, wants us to believe otherwise. There, of course, was a campaign in some quarters of the BJP, led by the feisty and indomitable, Subramanian Swami, who just wanted him not to be considered for the second term. And, like ever, he was not without reasons. After all, he himself is a Harvard-educated economist, not a “luddite” (Rajan knows well what it means). But, the intelligentsia made out a case as if he was hounded out from his job.

Hold no grudges, Mr Rajan; you’ve played your part in the welfare of the nation. But, now your time is up. Here, we’ve democracy and we must be pragmatic enough to allow the PM we’ve chosen to have the freedom to choose his team. It is necessary to let him choose his team so that if at all he fails, he may not hide behind the convenient argument in the hustings of the 2019 that he failed because of a certain Raghu Ram Rajan in the RBI who had all the innovative ideas to frustrate his turnaround plans.

Therefore, no sky is going to fall if Raghu Ram Rajan exits RBI. India story is replete with many outstanding men and women who keep surprising the nation with their unexplored talents. The RBI is poised to contribute a historic role in shaping the nation that emerges from here. The next governor, surely, would fit the bill.

 Krishna Kumar@THoughtPourri2016

“A hybrid narrative which seems like a movie…” – Kalyan Panja in his blog, Booktica, on the book “DEMOCRACY 2.0 – The Algorithm of Change”

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Democracy 2.0 by Krishna Kumar has a hybrid narrative which seems like a movie about the fight for social rights that evolves into a classical love story which adds a touch of sentimental drama to the book and emphasize that the society is equal for all and even the law should do likewise.


Aditya, An IAS topper, Siddhanta, a Harvard drop-out and Devanjali, a media professional, who are courageous, spontaneous, honest and firm on their ideas with due sensitivity and a well-earned intelligence, traverse their diverse lives to come in concert to outline a covert alliance that attracts some of the top minds of India, who collectively sketch a new age pressure group for revolution.

The group catches the imagination of the urban middle class and the rural India equally and snowballs into a huge upheaval that demolishes the different stereotypes of Indian polity, media and the social order prior to culminating into a new version of egalitarianism that meets the ambition of a contemporary India.

The narrative does have some tear-jerking moments and remains linear and attentive to the various points of view of the society which digs deeper that wants to tell a lot about everything, enriching the book with facets that keeps the reader glued to the pages, to create an urge to get involved with our society.

While the story is interesting and touches the heart, the book remains quite traditional, inspiring and compelling, that although sometimes may seem a bit romanticized, is well described both the characters and their state of mind. It reads like an excellent adventure novel, but the plus is that the content makes it much more interesting. It’s so simple and above all free from rhetoric and puts you in the middle of the Indian drama better than any television report or documentary.

This book is enjoyable, well-made, exciting, where you can be able to identify with the turn of events because they assume that it is the result of real life and is a book that draws, surprises, excites and does include certain hidden truths which is highly recommended not only to the youth of today but also to all those who sadly hold important positions.

A book well written, based on a life content tense, dangerous and very timely it is a minimalist book to understand the events of today’s Indian democracy. There are no explicit judgments, subjective judgments or theories, but only facts from which everyone can draw their own conclusions.

A good book, well written, the narrative is imbued with content with the descriptive ability, fresh but intense that stirs emotions with considerable punch to the stomach, with a clear and youthful prose with the reading is very fast, and the topic is interesting that is definitely recommended in a wonderful book that manages simultaneously to narrate events of significance and the feeling of the protagonists.

It’s a book that will keep you awake and send you the adrenaline rush with the descriptions of the landscape and the environment were such that it will seem to you as in a movie all this in a precise and engagingly written book to be read all in one breath.

Find Democracy 2.0 at Amazon.in http://www.amazon.in/Democracy-2-0-1-Krishna-Kumar/dp/9383562862/

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri, 2016

 

Kanhaiya Kumar and Rohith Vemula: Two names, one mission

Since past many days our collective consciousness has been dominated by 2 names – Kanhaiya Kumar and Rohith Vemula. The two names, coming from two different academia, have become the new synecdoche of anti-establishmentarianism in India and have emerged as the focal point of opposition against the Right-Wing government in the centre. The two names evoke two different stories, yet they come from the same book, preaching 2 gospels: (a) the government in centre is out to muzzle any and all voices of dissension against it and (b) it is anti-Dalit. If the charges stick, the mission is over.

It’s a part of a larger mission designed through finer craftsmanship over a long period of time entailing long sequence of events with one single agenda in mind – to destroy the idea of India. This write up tries to unravel and establish the conspiracy theory, which is playing itself out through the active involvement of few disturbed minds spread across the intelligentsia, academia, mass media, art, cinema, literature and politics. Through a systematic, subtle and sustained efforts these minds have tried to foment, create and brand such an image for India where it is seen out of synch with progressive, democratic and liberal values. Let’s see how. The question leads us to understand and analyze these two names that have become the new anti-establishment posterboys.

Rohith Vemula-whose suicide has been called “institutional murder” by Sitaram Yechuri and on whose death 129 academicians from around the world wrote an open letter to the VC of the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) to express their “shock and agony” over what they called “the most recent case of caste discrimination in Indian higher education” – is a classical case of obfuscation of facts and orchestration of malicious intentions. Till the time Rohith chose to commit suicide, he was just another student leader trying to make his ambitious mark in the arena of student politics at the HCU campus where he was enrolled for his Ph.D course. The marquee act of this aggressive student leader, who had switched allegiance from the Marxist Students’ Federation of India (SFI) to the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), was to hold a demonstration in August 2015 in the HCU campus with 4 other students to protest against the hanging of Yaqub Memon, where they offered a namaz-e-janaza followed by the chant “Yaqub tere khoon se inquilab ayega”.

This act, alongwith a series of other ones, led to rising tension between the ABVP and the ASA culminating into an assault, though denied by the ASA, on the ABVP president Susheel Kumar in his hostel room by a group of ASA men led by Rohith which led to the alleged hospitalization of the former. The university expelled the 5 ASA students from their hostel rooms including Rohith, whose monthly stipend of Rupees 25000 was stopped since July due to some obscure reasons. All these 5 students were suspended in September. The ASA alleged that the University had acted upon the complaint of the local BJP MP and central minister, Bandaru Dattatrey, who had written to the Union HRD minister against the activities of the ASA which was, in turn, forwarded by the HRD minister Smriti Irani to the V-C of the HCU.

These students, whose suspension was re-confirmed on 3rd January, 2016 through proctorial enquiry, had set up a tent in the campus and started relay-hunger protest during which Rohith Vemula committed suicide on the night of 17th January, 2016 in mysterious circumstances leaving behind a philosophical suicide note. His death sparked huge protest in the campus which grew rapidly and spread all across India with the protesters accusing the ABVP, Bandaru Dattatreya and HRD minister Smriti Irani of driving Rohith Vemula to suicide. However, the larger issue raised was that the central government led by the PM Modi was anti-Dalit. Under tremendous pressure of the protesters, a FIR was filed under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against Bandaru Dattatreya, the central minister and BJP MP from Secunderabad; Ramachandra Rao (BJP MLC); and Appa Rao Podile (University of Hyderabad Vice-Chancellor).

Kanhaiya Kumar, the first to become the president of JNUSU from the AISF in Sept 2015, had been just another face in the crowd of student politics till 9th February, when the diminutive Begusarai boy alongwith few other students, such as Umar khalid, allegedly raised slogans against India and demanded Azadi for Kashmir at a campus event meant to oppose what they called, “The judicial murder of Afzal Guru”. The sequence of events that followed left such bruised psyches across the nation that the government was forced to raid the campus and arrest Kanhaiya Kumar, who had, till then, gained recognition in JNU circles with his cutting oratorial skills. Further, the sentiments grew stronger and a clamour rose in the nation to close the very institution of JNU itself, with the hashtag #ShutDownJNU trending on the Twitter madly across the country prompted by the impression that the University, subsidized heavily through the tax-payer’s money, had become the den of seditious and secessionist activists. However, the JNU, long being the bastion of the left, rose in support of Kumar with the left-leaning groups of students and faculty rallying heavily behind him against his arrest that was regarded, in the words of the JNU professor Surajit Sarkar, an attempt to “terrorize the students into submission”.

Soon, Kanhaiya Kumar became the new figure of polarization in a highly charged society with the proponents hailing him as the new ‘Red Star’ of politics while the opponents branding him a “traitor” who needed to be “hanged”. The conditional bail after a fortnight in custody, completed the script in the emergence of the phenomenon called Kanhaiya Kumar, as he came back to his den on March 3rd to do the act he was best at – oratory. He rose to the occasion and took his oratory to the level of demagoguery by delivering a sharp upper cut to none other than Narendra Modi. He had been told that the camera lenses of the national media would be trained at him and hence he needed to calibrate his discourse to suit to a national audience. He did the same. The rest was done by the media that lapped up the gains and declared that a young star was born with promises to take the moribund Left politics to a new height. Today, Kanhaiya Kumar has become the new hate-object for the Indian nationalists and simultaneously the new messiah for the Indian Left, getting his daily shares of brickbats and accolades.

As said earlier, Kanhaiya Kumar and Rohith Vemula are two stories with one running mission underneath that binds them strongly with one another and makes them inseparable; the mission is to brand the Modi-led national government as ‘Anti-Dalit’ and ‘intolerant to any opposition in the country’. This mission not only gives their cause a bigger dimension but also connects Kumar and Vemula with all the left-leaning intellectuals, politicians, artists, journalist and mediapersons spread around the nation and beyond in fulfilling the defined mission. Even without facts being tested or investigations completed, the anti-Dalit cry and call to support Rohith Vemula and Kanhaiya Kumar became an instant movement countrywide. The left brigade had swung to action. A global scholar community comprising of 129 scholars representing various US and European Universities wrote an open letter immediately to the V-C of HCU denouncing, what they alleged, “institutionalized discrimination” leading to the death of Rohithh Vemula and even without a formal investigation, they proclaimed their judgement as follow:

Rohith now joins a long list of victims of prejudice at premier institutions in the country, where pervasive discrimination drives so many Dalit students to depression and suicide, when not simply forcing them to quietly drop out…Measures must be implemented to ensure that such students are supported and allowed to thrive when they enter what is all too often the hostile, casteist environment of higher education in India.” (sic)

The conspiracy angle

It was interesting to find who these 129 people were. Most of them, barring a few names, are Indian-origin men and women with interest in South Asian Studies, especially those related to Dalits, castes and religious issues. A deeper analysis of these names – such as Rupa Vishwanathan, Srirupa Roy (both from the University of Goettingen, Germany), Dwipayan Sen (Amherst College, USA), David Mosse (University of London) or Raka Ray (University of California, Berkley) – done through the books, papers and articles they publish would betray their strong left orientation with Sub-altern approaches and they show a deep bias against the right wing ideologies. For example, Raka Ray in her chapter, ‘A slap from the Hindu Nation’ in a book ‘Violence in Indian democracy’ edited by Amrita Basu and Srirupa Roy (Seagull India Press) wonders on the victory of Narendra Modi in 2002 elections after the Gujrat riots “despite”, she writes, “his involvement in the orchestration of the massacre of Muslims in Gujrat”. Her blatant accusation of ‘involvement’ shows her deep bias to a person who has been absolved from any such charge from the highest court of the land. The fanaticism and anathema of these intellectuals towards targeted individuals drive them away from having any faith in the India’s judicial system even at the highest level. These academicians passed a pre-conceived judgement on the whole matter of the HCU on the basis of the one-sided story totally disregarding the ABA escapades in the campus or Vemula’s Aggressive anti-Hindu stances and also the facts and circumstances presented by the ABVP and N. Susheel Kumar, whose body bruises and subsequent surgery was conveniently overlooked. Clearly, the left-intellectuals were working as per a defined agenda.

Further, a deliberate attempt was started by a section of media, mainly by The Indian Express, The Hindu, The NDTV and the ABP News to project the case of Vemula’s suicide as “caste discrimination” which is weird and untenable as N.Susheel Kumar, with whom he was in conflict, is himself an OBC student, not a high caste one who are normally accused of inflicting oppression against the Dalits. To the contrary, the conflict between Vemula and Susheel Kumar was nothing but an ideological struggle to establish hegemony between the ASA and ABVP where the latter seriously challenged the anti-national orientations of the former on the campus.

Similarly, a concerted attempt was made to prove that Vemula committed suicide under pressure of Dattatreya etc and police was forced to file a case of abatement to suicide under SC/ST Act turning a blind eye to the contents of his suicide note where he hasn’t blamed anyone for his suicide rather he’d sounded amazingly calm and philosophical throughout the text complaining of “a growing gap between my soul and my body” and showed no acrimony towards any person or situation. He writes:

No one is responsible for my this act of killing myself. No one has instigated me, whether by their acts or by their words to this act. This is my decision and I am the only one responsible for this. Do not trouble my friends and enemies on this after I am gone…” (sic)

Can anything be more clear? But, this was completely and conveniently ignored as it didn’t suit the politics of it’s benefactors.

Sadly, any incident involving a Dalit in India is depicted through a straightjacket of stereotypes where the person looses all other traits or flaws in him and is judged by one single identity – Dalit. This straightjacketing syndrome, applicable also to the minorities, is not only unfortunate for the person who might be yearning to break free from the identity, but also dangerous for the state as it prevents the governments from taking punitive measures in an independent manner in cases of delinquent behaviors involving Dalits, as happened in the case of action taken by HCU in suspending Rohith Vemula. The proctorial enquiry leading to his suspension might have been free and fair but the decision was straightjacketed by the experts with the stereotype of caste-discrimination. I don’t know whether Rohith was guilty or whether he was a victim of discrimination or not – only the court will say that – but the stereotyping zealots wouldn’t allow me to wait till then. They’ll pronounce judgement handsdown.

However, the whole Rohith case is built up on slippery wicket as a slew of evidences, including the local intelligence report, his parents’ affidavit with Guntur Revenue department, IB report, his father’s interview and many other things prove that he was born to a Vaddera family (OBC) in Gurazala mandal in Guntur although he managed to obtain the SC certificate. However, the Left brigade would fight teeth and nail to negate this, as the whole case so diligently built by them, would collapse if the contrary is proved.

Similarly, the same Left brigade sprang to its feet to defend Kanhaiya kumar, storming the street with the allegation that the government is muzzling the freedom of speech and is out to quash all opposition. The government, just back to its feet after successfully fighting off a crippling, sustained campaign against the so called ‘growing intolerence’ in the nation, was in no mood to back down and flexed its muscle. This infuriated the Left camp and the members took to their respective battlefronts – in campuses, in streets, in newsrooms, in courtrooms, in cinemas, in literatures and in the parliament.

The battle of hegemony: A fight to finish

With the battlelines drawn, and with the government buoyed by a supportive majority opinion reflecting through the social media, the war has become a proverbial fight to finish. It’s a battle where everyone has taken sides, including the media and the journalists who have started wearing their colours on their sleeves. While Arnab Goswami, Sudheer Chaudhary and Rohit Sardana raised the battle cry of Nationalism from the TV studio, Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai and Ravish Kumar rushed to the ground zero to train the comrades how to shoot from the mouth. The nervousness to take edge in this existential war was so obvious that Barkha Dutt had cancelled all her engagements to reach Kanhaiya Kumar, as soon he was released on 3rd March, and reportedly gave him a hour-long closed door tutorial on things to speak in his first speech after release. She had ensured to fire her own guns from the firm shoulders of Kanhaiya Kumar. The shot was indeed fired and travelled wide in splinters.

Now, the question arises why the Left is so desperate with these two names? The answer is simple: these names are their only hope in their battle for survival. After fizzling out of the carefully-orchestrated intolerance movement last year, these two names have the potential to keep the government vulnerable. Hence, the Left would employ all the means under their command to glorify these two names to carry the battle as far as they can.

In the final analysis, these two names have to play important roles in the battle of hegemony between the Leftist and the Rightist ideologies where the Rightist forces appear to have taken edge by making heavy inroads into the earstwhile Leftist bastions. Now, the University campuses across the country are the new bastions that the Rightist forces are desperate to conquer.

It is important for the Rightist ideology to flourish and prosper in the University campuses because in order to defeat the Left, they need to cut off their ‘intellectual’ supply line that goes through those prominent Universities. The Left has always remained hooked to identity politics – caste, Dalits, majdoor, Kisaan, women, minority – and, despite all theoretical talks to the contrary, has tried to preserve societies divided on the fault-lines of identities. Hence, the Left’s idea of India is structured around idea of divisions. On the contrary, the Rightist ideology has always believed in Holism where all such fault-lines of society created and preserved around such identities have to vanish.

The Right-Wing’s idea of Nationalism is built around an India where Hindus would be one monolithic community that won’t be hegemonic but brotherly, as it has historically been in the past, to accommodate different ethnicities in order to evolve – what the JNU’s Doubting Thomoses may not like to hear from them – Multi-ethnic Nationalism. That’s something Modi described about India during his victory speech in 2014 as ‘A beautiful garland of different flowers’. However, in order to achieve that the Hindus need to evolve and to re-invent themselves in multiple ways to dissolve those internal fault-lines of caste, untouchability, gender-inequality etc so that one single holistic, monolithic, ethnic identity for the community could be created. And that’s what the Right-Wing strategists are aiming at. This precisely is the reason why the Left wing is so worried and so hell-bent on de-stabilizing the Right-wingers because it knows that once that consolidation happens, it will be finished. Divide and Rule has always paid, hasn’t it?

Then, should the Right Wing ideology win in India?

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri, 2016

An open rejoinder to Barkha Dutt to her open letter to the Prime Minister Modi.

 

Dear Ms Barkha Dutt,

I’m writing rejoinder to your letter to the PM Modi because like so many of my fellow citizens, to quote you, I’m both angry and anguished, and also because I know that the PM Modi hardly joins issues with anyone but the common citizens of India. Ah, now don’t scowl in the pretension that the common citizens of India have no voice or opinion; they do have both, and better than even the media people, which is evident in the success of our democracy over the decades. The richness and tonality of these voices and opinions have added muscle, strength and vibrance to our democracy.

Let’s begin with two things: First, none of the missives from the likes of yours can be ignored; it gives the people a kind of scale to fathom the low to which you can sink in your professional dishonesty. Second, it’s good that you’re well aware of what you are; you needn’t harp on about your special identities – “Presstitute”, “sickular” etc which you’ve acquired so diligently by your splendid idiocies. We all know about them and, post-Nira Radia event, would better like to supplement them with some even more juicier ones. So, good that you prefer to move around in your true skin; it’s a real fun to deal with a wolf in wolf’s clothing.

Gujarat, the leitmotif of your barbs against the BJP in general and Modi in particular, was sure to figure in this missive, but, unwarranted, it came at the very outset. It was Gujarat, definitely, that defined your ideological self in the world of Indian media and ensured you a hallowed position in the much cultivated and glorified left-wing space in the emerging world of 24×7 TV journalism. But again, that was the first brush of the people of India with something, what your friend, competitor and senior, Rajdeep Sardesai coined later, “the Supari Journalism” – sort of a contract to finish somebody off through crossing all lines of ethics in media and journalism. Okay, good. That’s entirely your pleasure and prerogative. But, this really stupefies to find somebody resorting to what may be called “Spin Journalism” where facts are slanted and presented in such a way as to give a positive spin on someone’s reputation, no matter whether the person is a Maoist or a secessionist or a terrorist. It’s atrocious, preposterous and criminal. It’s nothing but a delinquent act, as iniquitous and shady as anything else can get. It’s a crooked effort to propagandize black into white, or worse, to induce people into believing that black is beautiful, in situations where in reality it is not.

The ‘Spin Journalism’ has some pre-requisites – quintessentially in binaries – the first and foremost being that you must have wily intentions, yet have lofty principles to cloak them; you must have ability to say nasty things, yet have immense argumentative skills to make them sound genial; you must have the insolence of a traitor in your words; yet have the confidence of a patriot in your arguments; you may have patronization from enemies, yet you may walk with the confidence of a patriot – that makes a Spin Journalist. And that, Ms Barkha Dutt, defines who you are. The things you say – veneered in principles, civility and idealism – may not essentially come from your heart, but from the minds of a Maoist, a secessionist or a traitor to which you, through your uncanny erudition, spin into palatable ideologies. The voice of your inner-self, now it appears, is the voice of the dangerous elements who seem to be nothing but your extended self. You call it ideological posturing, you call it intellectual scrutiny, you call it anti-establishmentarianism, you call it left-wing activism; call it whatever, though in reality, it’s nothing but helping those who carry nefarious intentions against the idea of India. Such support, coming from a decorated journalist like you, is a huge tower of strength to those anti-national forces. No, I’m not saying you’re one of the anti-nationals; I’m saying you breed them.

Such critical reductionism is necessary to reach at the core of the existence of humbugs like you so that the gullible ones, running into millions, may unseat you from the exalted throne they’ve seated you in.

Taking the idea of your binary existence forward, I find that your vainglorious romanticism, bragged annoyingly, around the defence forces of the nation is nothing but a camouflage to conceal your unholy intentions. Each time you need to speak something on behalf of those anti-national voices, you plan a border excursions to army zones and, wandering among them, gather enough brawny points to offset any potential challenge to your patriotism as you speak for them. Dear Ms Dutt, believe me you’ll be doing more favours to the army and the defence forces by refuging to hold a brief for the anti-national and secessionist forces than by reporting on them from their mountainous trenches. They would certainly welcome a person not creating and sustaining enemies within while they’re battling against them at the frontiers. Madam, I wouldn’t be surprised if during your next jaunt to the rugged war zones you find a less welcome, if not hostile, men in uniform. Disciplined, as they always are, they may not give you jeers and catcalls, but certainly you’ll not miss those angry stares and threads of reds in their eyes.

Hence, your maudlin patriotism, as you proudly condescend, stands in weak defence to your contrasting designs. Yes ma’am, to counter you, it’s entirely possible to deeply respect the military and to be an ethical thug betraying the nation.

Let’s come to JNU. Now, after this reductionist analysis of the person you’re, it’s not surprising to find you deeply anguished over “multiple manipulations”, “doctored videos” and “police excesses” in JNU campus. Let’s talk straight. First, the police action wasn’t in “excess”, rather it was necessary and minimum. The police needed to raid the campus; it wasn’t a pickpocketing incident or a gambling match at Sabarmati dhaba that needed to be settled by the in-house mechanism. It was an act that smacked of anti-nationalism and secessionism, something that carries wider ramifications for this nation battling the menace of terrorism since long. Second, whether the video was doctored or not, a Barkha Dutt is no one to pre-judge that. There are agencies, with proper procedure and professional accomplishment, to do the job. Let, there be a thorough analysis; let the law take its own course. Till the time, the police remand is necessary. The law-enforcing agencies, despite strong circumstantial evidences and despite grave ramifications of the incident, have no right to anticipate an act of anti-national criminality, but the honourable Barkha Dutt has the right to anticipate their innocence, and hence the right to cry foul. Preposterous, again.

No nation, howsomuch banana texture it may have, can afford to turn it’s eyes away from potential anti-national activities. If it does, it does it on its own peril. Moreover, today’s India isn’t a banana republic. It can’t and shouldn’t take a chance. Third, there wasn’t “manipulations” in government’s action. The accused students needed to be investigated. Rather, the likes of Ms Dutt made all sorts of manipulations to stop that from happening. The students haven’t been thrown to the wolves; rather, they’ve been subjected to the law of the land. Your appeal to the PM to drop the charges against Kanhaiya Kumar, concede the “mistakes” and “apologize” presumably to the sections of the people you represent, is as much mischievous and stunning as it is laughable. Mr. Prime Minister, I know you aren’t going to do any of it.

Ms Barkha Dutt, India is a nation that rightfully takes pride in the vibrance and strength of its constitutional institutions; judiciary being one of them – the most shining, perhaps; it takes harshest of positions when it comes to defend the fundamental rights of individuals from the excesses of the state. But, you seem to have lost faith in the efficacy of the judicial system of India, madam. If not, why this clamour to release the accused even without a formal investigation? ‘Insaniyat’, you say. But, you can’t afford to apply the principle of ‘insaniyat’ to a University that is becoming a breeding ground for proud secessionists. Is this the kind of non-conformism or youthful rebellion that you find natural among the youth and wish to concede? Enough has happened in the past. But, the nation hasn’t selected this government to prolong the past. I sound jingoist? You got me wrong. I’m a nationalist.

Yes, what’s wrong is wrong. The mob justice, led by the lawyers brigade is a deplorable act and the government certainly is to take the blame for it. It has got enough flak for that and it needs to pull its socks up to deal with circumstances like them with better responsibility and accountability in the future. Mr. prime Minister, hope you’re listening and like Ms Smriti Irani, take all supplications coming your way very seriously. The government needn’t give an opportunity to Ms Barkha Dutt to add two wrongs to make a right, anymore.

I don’t wish to bring any quotes here to bolster what freedom of expression, nationalism or sedition means, yet since you’ve quoted Gurudev Ravindranath, I’d also like to wind this up by dropping one of his small quotes:

“facts are many but the truth is one.”

Let that truth come out through the route it really should – the courts of India. It should come neither through the government’s press briefings nor through the wisdom of Barkha Dutt. Let the truth come out. Even if the accused are declared innocent in the ensuing trial, the government need not be worried. It must feel content, like many among the citizens, that it acted upon a potentially damaging information. And, it acted fast. All secessionism must be nipped in the bud.

Dear Barkha Dutt; let me tell you here that I’ve ever admired you as a compere and would like to quote one particular live show where I was present in the audience – your interview of Oprah Winfrey at the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2012; your introduction of Oprah to the audience was a fabulous poetry of eloquence, diction and oratory that was nothing but a knock-out speech. In the audience, I saw, everyone was mesmerised, and no less was Ophra herself, who at the end of the introduction asked you where was the teleprompter. Everyone clapped in awe, I, the loudest. But, today I believe you’ve belied many of us; you’ve belied a hope.

Protecting the nation is a shared responsibility. It can’t only be left to the government. The media, the academia, the civil society and the intellectuals – all need to play a role in it. However, many among these four seem to have taken a shared responsibility to destroy the nation, instead. You appear to be one among them, Ms Dutt. If yes, we’re pitted on the opposite sides and are ready to fight it out. Put your gloves on.

And, I appeal to my armymen not to join the battle here. You keep guarding the frontiers. We’ll take care of all the enemies within.

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2016

THOUGHT POURRI: 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

10 things that make Islam a nursery of terrorism and militancy

 

Can religion breed terrorism? Can a spiritual order spawn militancy? You’ll laugh at the suggestion – and rightly so – unless you’re someone with little knowledge of Islam and its scriptures. Religion – often viewed as an organized system of faith, belief and values that usher human beings into the realm of spirituality – is considered to be a liberating force that takes one away from the shackles of ignorance and bigotry. You’ll find that each religion puts forth a set of moral ideas that train humans in the values of love, sacrifice, kindness and altruism. Then, you’ll wonder how a religion can become a nursery of militancy, terrorism or hate? You’ll ask in disbelief how a religion can breed violence.

It can, if it’s Islam.

Though, it’s not all wired that way. Paradoxically, Islam talks of peace, kindness, harmony and love and glorifies the virtue of showing mercy and graciousness towards all living and non-living beings.  Oxymoron, eh? But, true. Read Quran and Hadith reports to discover how Prophet Mohammad commands Muslims to live by the ideals of charity, truthfulness, piety and simplicity and disciplines them by the specter of a judgment day (Yawm-al-Qiyamah) when the dead will rise up from their graves and face God who’ll judge them on their past deeds and would hand down reward or punishment accordingly. Cool! [Personally speaking, I’m swooned at the philosophy of Quran and Mohammad and wish everyone reads it at least once. But do it after going through at least the New Testament (I mean the synoptic Gospels, if not the full Bible) and the Vedanta literatures (and if possible, Kitab-i- Aqdas of Bahaullah, which I find a little voluminous but more powerful on ideological part) to have that necessary pinch of salt to set things in perspective.]

Well, with such terrific values to guide as beacon, one expects the adherents of Islam to stand out as shining example of human values displaying the highest standards of moral behavior and act as role models for misguided humanity. But, the same isn’t happening. Islam, today, is far from being that spiritual guide for humanity and instead it’s increasingly being identified with everything that is anti-thesis of these noble ideas. Today, in the eyes of non-Muslims Islam represents a set of ideas that is antiquated, regressive and obnoxious which thrives on the ideology of hate, violence, intolerance and terror. In short, an average man-in-the-street finds Islam a dangerous idea. I must aver that Islam, per se, is not dangerous but it has few deadly chips in its architecture that carry the potentials of subverting the hearts and minds of its naïve, less-discerning or misguided adherents to turn fanatic, intolerant and militants.

I sifted through the scriptures and philosophy of Islam and came round to 10 things that could make its gullible adherents violent, militant and fundamentalist:

1. The principle of ‘Tawhid’ (singleness): Tawhid, meaning singleness of god, is a weird idea of uncompromising monotheism. It is the fundamental principle of Islam on which the whole idea of the religion exists. Tawhid believes in the ‘oneness’ and ‘uniqueness’ of god, i.e. Allah, who is universal, absolute and transcendental with no equal. Quran 112:1-4 (Sura Al-Ikhlas) says

Qul huwa Allahu ahad

Allahu assamad

Lam yalid walam yoolad

Walam yakun lahu kufuwan ahad

Say: “He is Allah, [who is] the One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent.”

Islam can’t compromise with the notion of oneness and uniqueness of god. Thus, if you swear by Jehovah or Ahur Majda or Jesus or Krishna or a Shinto kami, you’re raising the hackles of a Muslim by venerating a god other than Allah. Islam hates polytheism and considers all polytheistic religions to be false – the list, apart from Hinduism and Pagan religions, also includes Christianity because of its Trinitarian belief in the god as God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit.

To associate anything or any being with that one and unique god or creating partnership in him is considered the greatest sin (shirk) in Islam which stands unpardonable even after death. Quran Sura 4 ayat 48 says:

‘GOD does not forgive idolatry, but He forgives lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who sets up idols beside God, has forged a horrendous offense.’ (Quran 4:48)

Such was his hate towards polytheistic gods that after the conquest of Mecca by Muslim forces, Prophet Muhammad refused to enter the city so long as all the idols of the Kaba, close to some three hundreds that inhabited it since centuries, were not removed and destroyed. This uncompromising monotheism distinguishes Islam from any other religions of the world and the rabid intolerance in-built in the idea of Tawhid foments fanaticism and hate that breed militancy and extremism in a Muslim’s worldview.

2.‘Kufr’ and fanatic disbelief in other’s faith- Islam professes a narrow definition of ‘faith’ according to which those who believe in Allah and his Quranic teachings are ‘faithful’ and the rest are Kafir (infidel) as they commit Kufr (disbelief in the authority of Allah). Muslims are declared as the ‘community of faithful’ (Umma).

Shahadah, the first pillar of Islam which describes the article of faith of the religion, says Ashadu la-ilaha-il-lillahi ashadu anna Muhammadun rasul Allah i.e. I testify there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger.

Allah is described as the most benevolent and most merciful (ar-rahmaan nir-raheem) (Quran Sura 1:1-2) but to avail his mercy and benevolence you need to get into his fold or else Allah’s mercy and benevolence would turn into wrath and vengeance if you drop the name of any other god or show disbelief in his authority (Kufr). Islam can put up with everything except Kufr and hence, Quran offers a luscious recipe for the kafirs (Unbelievers):

“Fight in the cause of Allah those unbelievers who fight you…and kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out…and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.” (Quran 2:191)

Doesn’t it remind you of Churchill exhorting his people on the eve of Nazi invasion during WWII? (‘We shall fight on the seas and oceans, in the air, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills…’). Oops! Sorry for the analogy. Churchill was fighting for survival, not for some perverse dogma of monotheism.

Islam’s inherent hate towards false gods has remained standing motive behind the conquests of Muslim forces throughout the history of Islam. The sword of Islam, throughout the rule of Rashiduns, Umayyads, Abbasids, Safavids and the Ottomans, has been guided by the ideas of Tawhid and Kufr. This hate, over the ages, has permeated into the DNA of Muslim psyche and has fomented extremism that is visible throughout the world now in a cumulative manner. The inveterate hate, instead of saying ‘my god is better than yours’ goes even farther to say ‘Dude, only my god is god and your god is a fraud.’

3. Over dependence on Quran in the mundane affairs of Islamic life: Quran, which is believed by the Muslims to be a book of divine guidance revealed from God to Muhammad over a period of 23 years, is the sourcebook of Islamic ideologies and philosophy.

Because of its perceived divine origin, the Muslims treat it as an everything- inside-and-nothing-beyond-it entity and defend fanatically whatever it says. The words of Quran, being the words of Allah is not open to any critical scrutiny. Hikmah (wisdom) is a celebrated virtue in Quranic traditions but the same is a dirty word if you meant to apply it as a tool for scrutinizing the scripture in an objective and rational way. Any re-interpretation of the scriptural sayings in the framework of objectivity, rationalism or contemporary reasoning is vehemently opposed and the doer is regarded to be under the influence of Satan.  As a result, any word of wisdom, rationality or difference coming out against the spirit of Quran or the Prophet is the word of Satan and hence needs to be silenced. The classic example of intolerance is the Anti-blasphemy laws of many Muslim countries, especially of Pakistan which shoves the perceived offenders to the lifelong darkness of prison if at all they’re spared death sentences by courts. However, in all likelihood, the accused would be hounded, lynched and liquidated by the people from wider society even before the court could hand down such a pronouncement.

Such intolerance not only forces people to follow religious legacies without questioning but radicalizes society and glorifies violent actions against dissenters.

4. Restrictions on individualism and free-will:  Individualism, in western philosophies, is about the ideas of personal freedom i.e. right to think freely, freedom from indoctrination and freedom of choice. Every individual must have freedom to choose how to live so long his choice doesn’t come in conflict with the laws of the land. But, individualism of the modern man can run in conflict with the Islamic codes.

Islam doesn’t offer individual freedom, as understood in the context of modern western philosophy, for its adherents; rather a Muslim is a “prisoner of faith” in Allah. The meaning of Islam is ‘Submission’ and a Muslim is one who has ‘submitted himself to the will of Allah’. Here I’d like to quote Ahmad Reza Taheri, who during his presentation on ‘Individualism in Islam’ had argued:

“In sura Baghara (2), verse 256, Quran says “let there be no compulsion in religion”, but in sura Imran, verse 178, Quran threatens the non-believers for not following what Allah says. In sura Nisa, verse 14, Quran clearly says, “but those who disobey Allah and His Messenger and transgress His limits will be admitted to a Fire, to abide therein: and they shall have a humiliating punishment.” Based on such edicts, in a number of Islamic states like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc., if a Muslim converts himself/herself into any other religion and leaves Islam, his/her punishment will be death sentence.” (Ahmad Reza Taheri; ‘Individualism in Islam’ at the University of Pune (2008)

In Islam, people have defined limits for freedom of speech which should never be transgressed in any circumstances. This implies people do not have freedom to “question, criticize, negate, or deny Islam”.  As per Islamic ideologies Politics, art, literature and even architecture – everything should reflect the values of Islam.

Enlightenment, as per Emanuel Kant, “man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity” is something that, at one point of time or another, happened in most of the major religions of the world in the modern times. But the same didn’t happen in Islam. The reformation movements, if ever happened in Islam, have, on the pretext of establishing the puritanical form of religion, degenerated into further radicalization of society as it is evident in the Salafi, Wahabi or Deobandi movements of 18th-20th centuries.

The primary reason behind this is the faith of Muslims who believe that Islam is the perfect religion given to the humanity by Allah hence the same can’t be reformed. As a result, the Islamic society couldn’t acquire the core values essential for the development of a modern secular society that could make room for sense of tolerance and respect towards other religions of the world. The result is fanaticism and extremism.

5. Unfair treatment of Women: Ladies! If you’re Muslim, I’m sure it’s hard for you being there. Islam believes in a patriarchic, masochistic, male-chauvinistic social order grossly biased against women.

The social laws of the Muslims, drawn heavily from Quranic sources, stop women from enjoying equal rights with men. For example, women have no protection against polygamy as a man can have multiple wives if he can so afford (sura Nisa, ayat 3); Women can be easily divorced (Sura Baghara, verses 227-233 ) whereas their right to divorce is extremely limited; women are required to wear hijab – what the Islamic feminist Fadela Amara calls “visible symbol of subjugation” – to cover themselves as per Islamic traditions (Sura Noor, verse 31).

Muslim Brotherhood considers sleeveless women as “naked”. Further, Muslim women have limited testimonial rights (Sura Baqara, verse 282) as they aren’t considered dependable!

A Muslim woman’s movement in society happens to be under severe restrictions.

All such restrictions on women are heavily enforced in Muslim world that subjects them to a lower social status. Even, the women’s political ambitions are also restricted as according to Sahih al-Bukhari (the most-relied Hadith across the Muslim world for its authenticity), Muhammad is mentioned as saying that people with female ruler will never be successful (5:59:709).

Even despite a global headline grabbing act of Amina Wadud, who led a mixed-gender Friday Prayer in New York in 2005, the Muslim majority disapproves of woman acting as imam (prayer leader) during salat (namaz) gatherings.

By the oft-quoted verse of Sura al-Baqara, where Muhammad, while approving anal intercourse (sex from behind the woman), had declared “Your women are like a tilth for you (where you plant seed to obtain produce), so come to your tilth as you wish…” (Quran 2:223). Thus, it is certain that Islam interferes to support men even in such intimate and private matter as sexual positions. The men have the right to use a sexual position in the ‘manner, time and place’ they wish (Quran 2.222) while the women have no choice than to submit to the men’s whims ignoring their own preferences during such acts. The bottomline is that Quran and subsequent Hadith excluded women’s choice from the debate disregarding and degrading their position in Islamic society.

Such unequal treatment handed down to the half of population of Muslim society is regressive. It results into emergence of a skewed social order dominated by bigot, masochistic and fanatic men forcing women into violent submission.

The stories of Afghan Talibans abducting Tajik, Hazara and other non-Pashtun women from war zones and sending truckloads of them into sexual slavery throughout the Taliban rule is just a chilling reminder of the Islamist mentality that treats women as nothing more than sex objects all over the world (e.g Boko Haram in Nizeria, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Haqquani network in Af-Pak regions).

6. Jihad: Whoa! It is the most influential principle of Islamic ideology. The concept of Jihad has been drawn from Quran where it is mentioned in 164 verses while in the Hadith report of Sahih al-Bukhari, Jihad appears at 199 times. However, to define the term I’d single out Quran Sura 4 ayat 74 which describes it as al-jihad fi sabil-allah i.e. struggle in the way of Allah. Though later it has been interpreted in multiple ways among which a struggle against one’s inner evils is interpreted as the highest form of Jihad (Jihad-ul-akbar), nowhere in the 164 verses of Quran the term is associated with any spiritual or divine significance; rather Jihad has been used as a constant and consistent call to unremitting war against every soul on the earth who don’t believe in Allah. Quran sanctions, glorifies and lionizes all acts of aggression, plunder, killing and terror against innocent non-believers without any iota of mercy (as insinuated by verse 5 of sura at-Tawbah).

The association of Allah with struggle (Quital) makes jihad a religious war (holy war), which is the only form of war permitted in Islam. In almost all 199 references of Jihad in Sahih al-Bukhari, the term is associated with war where it is meant to be directed against non-Muslims (kafirs), robbers or Muslim apostates. In theory, Jihad is to continue till all men and women embrace Islam or submit themselves to the authority of an Islamic state.

No any other element of Islam has spawned extremism more than the principle of Jihad has done. It’s a romantic notion that infects the minds of naïve and gullible believers as they believe that a war for the sake of Allah would ensure them Jannat and the company of hoors in the heaven should they die in the middle as mujahideen (the jihadi fighter). Thus, Jihad as a holy warfare to please Allah is considered as the noblest thing to do in life.

Almost all the terrorist organizations of the world you hear today -whether it’s Al-Quaeda, Talibaan, the ISIS, the Hamas, the Hezbollah, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Haqquanis or the Muslim Brotherhood (that cultivated the theory of global jihad under the influence of ideologues like Abdullah Azzam, Yusuf al-Quradawi, Ayman al-Jawahari, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed etc, culminating into misadventures of Osama bin Laden) – all are quintessentially Jihadi organizations fighting in the name of Allah for establishing Islamic rule and imposition of Sharia law within their territories to please him.

Thus, the next time you hear the name of a dreaded Islamic terrorist, don’t blame his poisoned heart in isolation rather blame the cumulative hate and venom administered into Muslim psyche through centuries of systematic indoctrination. A jihadist, at best, is only the symptom. The source of the actual disease and its viruses lie in Quran – in its 164 verses – and in subsequent Islamic texts inked in the venom of hate to strengthen the sword of Islam.

7. Fatwa: Fatwa, the legal opinion given by Islamic scholars on religious matters, are helpful instruments in explaining the intricacies of religion and guiding the Muslims in unresolved questions of their modern lives that were not previously tackled by scholars or specifically addressed by the Quran or the Hadith or Prophet Mohammed. However, many a times fatwas happen to be controversial because of insinuations that foment hate and violence such as, fatwa against Ahmadiya Muslims, fatwa giving death sentence to Salman Rushdie, fatwa against child vaccination in Sudan or the Fatwa of Bin Laden asking Muslims to kill Americans all over the world.

Such Fatwas incite the fundamentalist elements in Islam and goad them into violence and killings.

8. Lack of Secularization in Islam: You take pride in telling people that you’re secular. But you won’t bandy the idea if you’re a Muslim because Secularism is as incongruous a concept in Islam and as sacrilegious as private property is in the circle of the Socialists. A Muslim is one who has submitted himself to the will of Allah hence being a Muslim entails meeting religious obligations on round-the–clock basis concerning nearly everything that happens in his life. A Muslim can’t do what is un-Islamic meaning he can’t do a thing that is religiously not permitted.

By secularization I mean anything and everything that takes you away from religious considerations and allows you to act independently in the mundane affairs of your life. Unlike in the case of all the major religions of the world, the process of secularization never took roots in Islam though there are evidences that scriptures encouraged ‘almaniyyah’ or ‘dunwaiyyah’  (secular matters) to happen independently of religion. Sahih al-Muslim, the second most authentic book on Hadith after Sahih al-Bukhari, refers to a statement of Prophet as follows: “Come to me if it’s a matter of religion because then it belongs to me but in the worldly matters you’d know better about it. Whatever I say in matters of religion must be followed, but this does not apply to worldly affairs.” Sadly, this bugle of freedom couldn’t sound longer as brawny waves of subsequent Islamic traditions drowned out secular voices and stifled progressive ideas in the later centuries.

In fact, the popular theory that modernity and techno-industrial development would lead to eventual secularization of societies all over the world, has been defeated in case of Islam which has, instead, strengthened its control over Muslims in the past 3 and half decades since the Iranian revolution and the Afghan war; rather I’d say Islam has been increasingly de-secularizing Muslims in the last 3 and half decades. This growing grip of religion on the community has contributed in radicalizing Islamic societies and creating fundamentalists out of it.

9. Non-separation of religion and state: The structures of politics and religion in Islam are as finely mingled as Sodium and Chlorine in salt. A Muslim political order (state), theoretically, is inseparable from the religion as Muslims can’t believe in any authority other than Allah. A Caliph (khalifa) So long he existed till the end of World War I, used to be the supreme leader of Islamic religio-political system. A Muslim’s world-view is guided by the notions of Islamic vs Non-Islamic, hence the political system of Muslims can’t be based on structures that are non-Islamic. While most of the non-Muslim societies are based upon modern political ideas of liberalism, rationalism and democracy, the Islamic world is still rooted in the Islamic traditions set up by the Muhammaddan Quran and Sharia laws and hence a call to set up Al-dawlah al-Islamia (Islamic State) happens to be the most romantic call for Muslims.

That’s why many Muslims chose to bury their heads in sand at the excesses committed by the ISIS in Syria and Iraq just because they were the fighters of Al Baghdadi, the Caliph of Al-Dawlah al-Islamia fi Iraq wa al-Sham. Lack of secularization and modernization in political structures of Islam is a great factor that contributes to irreversible radicalization of society leading to intolerance and extremism.

10. The myth of peace in Islam: Islam is propagated as a religion of peace by Muslim theologians but the proposition is as bizarre and untenable as the assertion that the polar bear is the natural inhabitant of the Kalahari. Islam, contrary to what is propagated, comes etymologically through the root word ‘s-l-m’ meaning ‘submission’ and it has nothing to do with ‘peace’ for which the Arabic word is ‘Salam’.

If you still believe to the contrary, give a re-look at Quran (read 2:190,192; 4:74,75,76; 5:34; 8:39,65; 9:5,29,73; 47:8 for few  examples) and various Hadiths which will scream in your ears that Islam is primarily a religion of violence that evolved, consolidated, sustained and expanded through violent wars many of which were internecine. In order to sustain the warring and killing instinct among its flock Muhammad and his theologians evolved the concept of jihad linking the sanction of Allah with the mindless violence and killings. Muhammad himself ordered wars and justified it in the name of Allah.

The association of Allah with all acts of aggression, invasion, violence, plunder, rape and terror gave ideological sanction to the violence and killings, as the leitmotif (in Quran) of Allah being Al-rehman (the most benevolent) and al-rahim (the most merciful) who forgives all sins of believers working in his way, gives ideological sanction to the violent wars and acts of terror. See, what Muhammad commands in Quran:

When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful.” (Quran 9:5)

Why! The existentialists and post-modern individualists will shout in bewilderment. Let idolaters live in peace, guys! Stay away from them and leave them in their own existential bliss. Period!

Through the promise of Jannat and 72 beautiful virgins or hoor al-Ayns to comfort those who reach Jannat after dying in the cause of Allah during Jihad (as per Hadith of Soor as narrated from Abu Hurayrah), Islam glorifies the ideology of hate, violence, intolerance and killings but at the same time demeans women by its lustful description of hoors in heaven as a divine sex objects. .

     

No wonder the believers kill not only kafirs and idol-worshippers but anyone and everyone including innocent children, as we recently saw in Peshawar (Pakistan), with impunity because they believe they’re working for the straight path of Allah (Tehriq-e-Taliban Pakistan believes it is working for establishing Islamic rule and Sharia which is an act in the path of Allah and hence any sin, including killing of children, shall be forgiven by Allah as he’s ar-rehman nir-rahim (most benevolent and most merciful) for the believers.

How can a religion that gives license to kill in the name of its god can be a religion of peace? How can that death-warranting god can be most benevolent and merciful?

majhab nahi sikhata aapas me bair rakhna’. While you hum this line next time, please ask Md. Iqbal: Iqbal sahib! After years of your madarasa education how could you say this? No wonder as you progressed in your studies of Islam, you had repudiated what you’d said in those Tarana-i-hind couplets (1904) and turned fundamentalist to write ‘Cīn o-ʿArab hamārā, Hindūstāṉ hamārā, muslim hai hum watan hai sara jehan hamara’ (Tarana-i-milli, 1910). Islam teaches bair (enmity) and Md Iqbal knew it well while ruling out any co-existence with Hindus and conceiving Pakistan. Today, he must be turning in his grave while agreeing.

P.S.

1. I haven’t talked about Muslims as individuals; I’ve only talked about Islam as constructed through the Quran and other Islamic scriptures. In my personal life I’ve come across many Muslim individuals who have been among some of the finest human beings I’ve ever seen and I believe a majority of Muslims are like that only. It’s just that, while their fundamentalist and extremist brethren hit the global headlines for all the wrong reasons, they don’t stand up and count.

2. My knowledge of Arabic is zero hence my interpretation of Quran is based upon available English translations renowned for their authenticity.

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2014

Yes, We Are: The Subtle Aggression Of Overseas Indians Finds Expression With Modi

The date changes, the venue changes, the face changes but the scene remains the same – this time, with the visit of Indian PM Narendra Modi in Australia, it was time for the Indian-Australians living in Down Under to be Modi-fied.  The TV cameras, unmounted from the Madison Square Garden, New York had been shipped by Indian media houses to Sydney, ten thousand miles away, where they were repositioned at different venues to pan across a different continent but the men behind them knew that the people facing them were hardly going to be any different. Soon the cameras were in action shooting the same zeal, fervor and frenzy among the Indians that was visible in New York during the visit of Narendra Modi in America. The lingering chant of ‘Modi-Modi’ plays as a ubiquitous background score whichever part of the globe Modi visits now a days.

To borrow from the Song of Australia, they say:

 “There is a land where, floating free,

From mountain-top to girdling sea,

A proud flag waves exultingly”

The proud flag, however, that floated free in Australia in past few days, as visible on our TV screen, was not the defaced blue ensign of Australia but our own desi ‘tiranga’ that waved exultingly all around the places Modi visited. People boisterously waved these flags while celebrating the metamorphosis of a grassroot karyakarta of BJP  into a jet-set political rockstar performing at the grandest of global stages. ‘Australia – the idle fancy of a dream’ was metamorphosed into a desi territory.

The visit of Narendra Modi to any foreign country is turned into festivals for the Indians living there. People prepare for the act for days – they organize grand welcome receptions for the PM, plan holidays, come out in traditional dresses, choreograph dance-song sequences and try to showcase their love for India in the best of traditions. The sight of Indians draping themselves in tricolours and bursting into “mere desh ki dharti sona ugale ugale heere moti” each time the camera approached them in cities of USA or Australia, was truly bemusing. All fault-lines along the lines of region, religion, language or culture that refuses to die in India, stood evaporated during such occasions and all Indians came out united in the spirit of oneness. Their common sentiments for their motherland happened to be the one emotive bond that erased all their tangible differences and made them stand shoulder to shoulder in celebrations of their identity as one Indian.

It is interesting to analyze why these successful overseas Indians throng to Narendra Modi in a way they’ve never done during visits of other Indian leaders ever before. Is it his popularity or his charisma or a belief in his ability as a leader or simply his street-smart demagogy that connects instantly with made-in-Harvard professionals and made-in-Hissar bumpkins alike? Has it got something to do with his wonderful abilities to connect not only as a sly conversationalist but also as a suave social media user? Yes, definitely all of these have their share in pushing up his popularity but the crazy crowd with maddening screams of ‘Modi Modi’ tells something even more.

Actually, much more than Mr. Modi’s personal abilities, this phenomenon can be explained in the urge of the immigrated Indians to assert their own identity in overseas societies. The Indians are regarded to be successful, competent, hard-working and affluent people that have established themselves as responsible, peace-loving communities in foreign societies. But, because of an incompetent political leadership at home, India was unable to carve out a dominant role for itself in international affairs. The numerically growing overseas community wanted a strong resurgent India that could be seen with respect and awe in global community. The Americans citizens are respected and held in awe the world over because of the political might of the United States.

It was a widely held belief among Indians that India has got what it takes to become a global superpower but is held back because of a lackluster, pusillanimous political leadership. Now, with the arrival of Narendra Modi, supported by a ruthless majority in parliament, the global community sat up to take note of this man’s words and deeds with dead seriousness. With growing clout of Modi, the clout of India grew stronger filling the hearts of overseas Indians with pride and optimism. Arranging a train from Melbourne to Sydney and naming it Modi Express was a symbolic expression of a subtle aggression that Indian community was champing at the bit to display since the days of racial attacks on Indians in Australia. It is worth recalling that Melbourne, the city with highest concentration of Indian students’ population, was the biggest centre of attacks on Indians. Now, a resurgent India under the puissant leadership of Modi, has given them the opportunity to celebrate their dormant aggression that intends to assert their existence in an indifferent society. That society will no longer remain indifferent; now it has been nudged into believing that Indians are a formidable community powered by the growing global political strength of their country in the comity of nations.

So, the next time when the Australians sing their national anthem, saying

“For those who’ve come across the seas

We’ve boundless plains to share;

With courage let us all combine

To Advance Australia Fair…”

the Indians will say, hey Australia, we’ve arrived…we’re there.

Yes, We Are.

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2014

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