FIVE DEVELOPMENTS DURING CONGRESS REGIMES THAT POLITICISED AYODHYA

The article originally appeared on India Today on 6 December.

Ayodhya has changed the political discourse of the country with various events unfolding since 1949, after India started its journey as an independent sovereign nation on August 15, 1947.

The right-wing forces are blamed for doing so. But if we look back at historical developments on the issue, it appears the issue was already politicised during the successive Congress regimes, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Rajiv Gandhi, and the right-wing forces only built on to it.

It is worth mentioning here that it was during a Congress government, headed by PV Narasimha Rao, that the Babri Masjid was demolished on 6 December, 1992.

DECEMBER 22-23, 1949 – RAM LALLA IDOL PLACED: It was done by Abhiram Das and his colleagues, ending over 400 years of status-quo. Though the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was furious at the idol being placed in the Babri Masjid, that finally made it a disputed structure, he could never find time to visit Ayodhya even once.

FEBRUARY 19, 1981 – MEENAKSHIPURAM CONVERSIONS: A Tamil Nadu village, Meenakshipuram, saw a mass conversion, and was renamed Rahmat Nagar. It was the beginning of the ascendance of right-wing politics in the country. Talks of Ayodhya and Ram Janmabhoomi to be taken in a mission mode began here.

1984 – THE SHAH BANO CASE: The way Rajiv Gandhi surrendered before the compulsions of minority appeasement and overturned a Supreme Court ruling on a social malaise that was affecting millions of Muslim women, it further sent out a message that the government was ready to go to any extent to save its votebanks.

It also sent a powerful message that the government that was so appeasement centric that if it could overturn a historic decision of the top court of the land, it could never be friendly to the interests of the majority. And there were many takers for it.

FEBRUARY 1, 1986, ORDER TO UNLOCK THE GATES: Though a local court ordered it, the governments- at the Centre and Uttar Pradesh very complicit and they never thought to challenge it in a higher court.Instead, the padlock was immediately opened after the judge’s order who quoted his religious experiences while delivering the judgment.
The stand taken shows Rajiv Gandhi had started feeling the pressure of a parallel right-wing political movement taking shape and had chosen the most direct tool to reach out to the masses – religion.

1989 SHILANYAS OF TEMPLE BY VHP: It is said that both the Congress government in Uttar Pradesh and the Centre could have stopped it but their lackadaisical attitude helped the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) lay the foundation stone of the Ram Temple on November 10, 1989.

The VHP began a big movement and had already revealed the date but none of the governments took proper legal interest to stall its plans, a failure that emboldened the forces to such an extent that it resulted in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

DEVELOPMENTS IN THE AFTERMATH THAT LED TO BABRI DEMOLITION IN 1992

1989-90 – JAN MORCHA AND MANDAL PROPOSALS: VP Singh, who was the then defence minister, revolted against the Bofors scam and formed a co-alition government in December 1989. He gave us the caste-based affirmative action, the reservation system that we follow today, through the Mandal proposals.ANTI-MANDAL VIOLENCE AND PRESSURE ON VP SINGH: Implementation of the Mandal proposals led to widespread demonstrations and violence. It increased pressure on the VP Singh government to such an extent that he had to go soft on Ayodhya.

But he could not reap the Mandal benefits as he was replaced by Chandra Shekhar in November 1990. Chandra Shekhar, who also lasted for only seven months, prompting mid-term elections. It was during the campaigning that Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991.

SEPTEMBER 25, 1990: ADVANI KICKS OFF RATHYATRA – THE MANDAL SPIN: The BJP cleverly used the deepening Ayodhya sentiments and the anti-Mandal protests to its advantage. It could make voters believe that it was their right representative in these circumstances. The electoral gains made by the BJP supported it. The party that could win just two seats in the previous Lok Sabha polls in 1984, won 85 seats in 1989.

OCTOBER 30, 1990: Police firing on kar sevaks in Ayodhya led to five deaths. Mulayam Singh Yadav was Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister. 15 more kar sevaks were killed in police firing on November 2.

1991: While Congress came back to power in June 1991 with a government led by Narasimha Rao, the BJP’s also saw its first big political foray in the mainstream. It came to power in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh. It was the beginning of the emergence of a political alternative in India that would make Congress like a regional party in 25 years, as the Congress’ situation is now.

DECEMBER 6, 1992: Babri demolition and the aftermath – the riots of December 1992 that engulfed the country. The Bombay riots of December 1992 and January 1993 and subsequent serial blasts in India’s financial capital that killed scores.

©SantoshChaubey

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MAHATMA GANDHI’S VIEWS ON CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES AND CONVERSION

Mahatma Gandhi had strong views on religious conversion. He believed all religions were equal and therefore the need to switch from one to other religion was seldom justified, especially in the then prevailing Indian scenario, where he believed the Christian missionaries were indulging in proselytizing in the name of humanitarian aid.

Gandhi held the belief that “religion was not like house or cloak which can be changed at will”.

He used to say that he was not against conversion when it was in its purest form, driven by heart’s urge for higher purposes like peace and spirituality. His eldest son Harilal had converted to Islam in May 1936. Gandhiji condemned it saying Harilal’s decision was based on greed and sensual pleasures and he could never be a true follower of Islam.

“I just read in the paper about Harilal’s exploit. There could be no harm in his being converted to Islam with understanding and selfless motives. But he suffers from greed for wealth and sensual pleasures. I shall be spared all mental pain if I find my impression wrong and he turns a new leaf,” he wrote in a letter to his other son Ramlal. And indeed Harilal was driven by lesser motives as proved by his reconversion to the Hinduism fold just five months later.

He would say time and again that how happy he would be had the Christian missionaries be content with the humanitarian aspect of their work only and not in increasing the count of Christians. Following are views expressed by Mahatma Gandhi from time to time on religious conversion being performed by the Christian missionaries as available on http://www.mkgandhi.org.

WHEN GANDHIJI WAS ASKED BY CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES, WHETHER HE WOULD ALLOW CHRISTIANS TO CONTINUE WITH THEIR CONVERSION ACTIVITY WITHOUT ANY HINDRANCE, GANDHIJI REPLIED (YOUNG INDIA 27-10-20.)

“(And) if a change of religion could be justified for worldly betterment, I would advise it without hesitation. But religion is matter of heart. No physical inconvenience can warrant abandonment of one’s own religion.”

GANDHIJI’S VIEWS FROM BIHAR NOTES (8-10-1925) INDICATE THAT:

“Christian missionaries have been doing valuable service for generations, but in my humble opinion, their work suffers because at the end of it they expect conversion of these simple people to Christianity …How very nice it would be if the missionaries rendered humanitarian service without the ulterior aim of conversion.”

SPEAKING ABOUT THE BHILS, THE TRIBE FROM CENTRAL INDIA, GANDHIJI SAID (NAVJIVAN 18-4-1926):

“These so-called uncivilized communities are bound to attract the attention of missionaries, for it is the latter’s duty to get recruits for the Christian army. I do not regard such proselytization as real service to dharma. But how can we blame the missionaries if the Hindus take no interest in the Bhils? For them anyone who is brought into the Christian fold, no matter how he has become a Christian, has entered a new life and become civilized. If, as a result of such conversion, converts rise spiritually or morally, I personally would have nothing to say against their conversion. But I do not think that this is what happens.”

GANDHIJI SENT A TELEGRAM TO THE EDITOR OF DAILY HERALD, LONDON, (AFTER 23-4-1931) STATING, THAT THE REPORT ABOUT THE FOREIGN MISSIONARIES WAS DISTORTION OF HIS VIEWS.

“Am certainly against the use of hospitals, schools and the like for purposes conversion. It is hardly healthy method and certainly gives rise to bitter resentment, conversion matter of heart and must depend upon silent influence of pure character and conduct of missionaries. True conversion comes imperceptibly like aroma of rose. Thus, am not against conversion as but am certainly against present methods. Conversion must not be reduced to business depending for increase upon pounds, shillings, pence. I also hold that all great religions are of equal merit to respective nations or individuals professing them. India is in no need of conversion of type described. Whilst under swaraj all would be free to exercise their own faiths. Personally, I would wish present methods adopted by missionaries were abandoned even now and that under conviction not compulsion.”

SPEAKING AT THE CONFERENCE OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY, WHICH WAS HELD AT CHURCH MISSIONARY HOUSE, LONDON, ON 8-10-1931. GANDHIJI SAID:

“The idea of converting people to one’s faith by speech and writings, by appeal to reason and emotion and by suggesting that the faith of his forefathers is a bad faith, in my opinion, limits the possibilities of serving humanity. I believe that the great religions of the world are all more or less true and they have descended to us from God.

…Religion is like a rose. It throws out the scent which attracts like magnet and we are drawn to it like involuntarily. The scent of religious contact has greater pungency than the scent of the rose, that is why I hold my view with reference to conversion.”

GANDHIJI FELT THAT HIS CAMPAIGN AGAINST UNTOUCHABILITY SHOULD NOT BE A REASON FOR THE MISSIONARIES TO GET DISTURBED. (HARIJAN, 25-1-1935.) HE SAID:

“But my trouble is that the missionary friends do not bring to their work a purely humanitarian spirit. Their object is to add numbers to their fold, and that is why they are disturbed. The complaint which I have been making all these years is more than justified by what you say. Some of the friends of a Mission were the other day in high glee over the conversion to Christianity of a learned pandit. They have been dear friends, and so I told them that it was hardly proper to go into ecstasies over a man forsaking his religion. Today it is the case of learned Hindu, tomorrow it may be that of an ignorant villager not knowing the principles of his religion… Here is Miraben. I would have her find all the spiritual comfort she needs from Christianity, and I should not dream of converting her to Hinduism, even if she wanted to do so …Take the case of Khan Saheb’s daughter entrusted to my care by her father. I should jealously educate her in her own faith and should strive my utmost against her being lured away from it if ever she was so inclined. I have had privilege of having children and grown-up persons of other faith with me. I was thankful to find them better Christians, Mussalmans, Parsis or Jews by their contact with me.”

WHEN A. A. PAUL FROM FEDERATION OF INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP HAD ASKED GANDHI TO DEFINE CONVERSION, (HARIJAN, 28-9-1935.) GANDHIJI STATED:

“My own detached view may now be stated in few words. I believe that there is no such thing as conversion from one faith to another in the accepted sense of the term. It is highly personal matter for the individual and his God. I may not have any design upon my neighbour as to his faith which I must honour even as I honour my own. For I regard all the great religions of the world as true at any rate for the people professing them as mine is true for me. Having reverently studied the scriptures of the world, I have no difficulty in perceiving the beauties in them. I could no more think of asking a Christian or a Mussalman or a Parsi or a Jew to change his faith than I would think of changing my own.. .It is a conviction daily growing upon me that the great and rich Christian missions will render true service to India, if they can persuade themselves to confine their activities to humanitarian service without the ulterior motive of converting India or at least her unsophisticated villagers to Christianity, and destroying their social superstructure, which notwithstanding its many defects has stood now from time immemorial the onslaughts upon it from within and from without. Whether they—the missionaries—and we wish it or not, what is true in the Hindu faith will abide, what is untrue will fall to pieces. Every living faith must have within itself the power of rejuvenation if it is to live.”

GANDHIJI WAS HAVING DISCUSSIONS WITH HARIJAN WORKERS IN BARDOLI ON 8-1-1942. QUESTION WAS PUT TO GANDHIJI THAT, HOW ONE DEALS WITH THE TEMPTATIONS GIVEN BY THE MISSIONARIES IN FORMS OF BOOKS, SCHOOL FEES ETC., TO WHICH HE REPLIED —

“The missionaries have of course the right to preach the Gospel of Christ and to invite non-Christians to embrace Christianity. But every attempt to press material benefits or attractions in the aid of conversion should be freely exposed, and the Harijans should be educated to resist these temptations.”

©SantoshChaubey

HOW AYODHYA HAS IMPACTED SOCIAL AND POLITICAL DISCOURSE: TURNING POINTS (POST BABRI DEMOLITION)

AS WE SAW IN PREVIOUS PART, IMMENSE PRESSURE ON RAJIV GANDHI PUSHED HIM TO MISHANDLE THINGS. HE TRIED HIS HANDS WITH MAJORITY MAJORITY BUT THE ULTIMATE BENEFICIARY WAS THE BJP THAT, FROM TWO SEATS IN 1984 LOK SABHA POLLS, WENT ON TO WIN 85 SEATS IN 1989 AND 119 SEATS IN 1991.

FOR REASONS THAT LIE IN INDIA’S PLURALITY AND THUS IN SENSITIVITIES OF THE MAJORITY AS WELL AS THE MINORITY COMMUNITIES, THE APEX COURT DIDN’T TAKE NOTICE OF THE CONTEMPT PETITIONS FILED AFTER THE BABRI DEMOLITION EVEN IF THE THEN CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA, JUSTICE M N VENKATACHALIAH, HAD SAID THAT THE DEMOLITION WAS THE MOST BLATANT CONTEMPT EVER COMMITTED. KALYAN SINGH AND VIJAYARAJE SCINDIA HAD GIVEN WRITTEN UNDERTAKING IN THE SUPREME COURT THAT KAR SEVAKS WOULD NOT TOUCH THE BABRI MASJID.

LEGAL JURISPRUDENCE IS TECHNICAL AS WELL AS INTERPRETATIONAL. THAT’S WHY WE HEAR THE PHRASE, ‘ON YOUR FINE SENSE OF JUDGMENT’ BY THE LAWYERS WHEN THEY SUM THEIR ARGUMENT IN ANY CASE. THE INTERPRETATIONAL NATURE OF OUR CONSTITUTION AND THE LEGAL SYSTEM DOES GIVE THE JUDGES THE DISCRETION TO INTERPRET LAWS WITHIN THE CONSTITUTIONAL NORMS. AND THEY HAVE DONE WELL. THE COURT’S HESITATION IN AYODHYA CASE CAN BE GAUGED FROM THE FACT IT IS PART OF THE LEGAL JURISPRUDENCE TO SEE WHAT EFFECT A PARTICULAR JUDGMENT CAN HAVE ON THE SOCIETY AS A WHOLE AND THEY TRY TO KEEP AS MUCH RESTRAINT AS POSSIBLE.

TO CONTINUE..

©SantoshChaubey

HOW AYODHYA HAS IMPACTED SOCIAL AND POLITICAL DISCOURSE: TURNING POINTS (PRE BABRI DEMOLITION)

Ayodhya has changed the political discourse of the country with events unfolding since 1949, after India started its journey as an independent sovereign nation on August 15, 1947. India began as a democratic country with socialist ethos at its core and the word ‘secular’ was rightly added to further the spirit.

But our lawmakers have failed us, right from 1947. Socialist and secular are all encompassing words that signify and qualify every other word that has become essential to our political discourse today, i.e., nationalism and even Hindutva. Nationalism had to be an extension of our socialist and secular ethos. Hindutva had to be nothing more than a way of life practiced by the majority in the country which gave equal respect to all other ‘ways of life’.

But we have messed it all up and as a results, the words that should define the spirit of our diverse society, have become mere tools to maintain political goalposts. Socialism, secularism, nationalism, Hindutva, all have come to define different goalposts in a society that is still trying to make sense that where it intended to go when it began its journey 70 years ago.

And Ayodhya has played a central role in this narrative. And the events that shaped this narrative are:

DECEMBER 22, 1949 – RAMLALLA IDOL PLACED: Ending over 400 years of status-quo. The history says, though then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was furious at placing of the idol in the disputed structure, he was never alert enough to visit Ayodhya even once.

19 FEBRUARY 1981, MEENAKSHIPURAM CONVERSIONS: A Tamil Nadu village, Meenakshipuram, saw a mass conversion, and was renamed as Rahmat Nagar. It was the beginning of the ascendance of majority appeasement politics in the country as opposed to minority appeasement that dominated the politics of the country till then. Talks of Ayodhya and Ram Janmabhoomi to be taken in a mission mode began here.

1984 – THE SHAH BANO CASE: The way Rajiv Gandhi surrendered before the compulsions of minority appeasement and overturned a Supreme Court ruling on a social malaise that was affecting millions of Muslim women, it further sent out a message that government was ready to go to any extent to save its votebanks. It also sent a powerful message that the government that was so appeasement centric that it could overturn a historic decision of the top court of the land, could never be friendly to the interests of the majority. And there were many takers of it.

FEBRUARY 1, 1986, ORDER TO UNLOCK THE GATES: Though a local court ordered it, the governments, at centre and in Uttar Pradesh, were so complicit that they never thought to challenge it in a higher court. Instead, the padlock was immediately opened after the judge’s order who quoted his religious experiences while delivering the judgement. It was in stark comparison to Rajiv Gandhi’s stand on the Shah Bano case. That was pure minority appeasement. But the stand taken here tells us that Rajiv had started feeling the pressure of a parallel political movement taking shape that was adopting majority appeasement and had chosen the most direct tool to reach out to the masses – religion. Rajiv’s stand also tells us he might have seen that it was going to be the future’s political currency and therefore, let’s try hands there.

1989 – UNRAVELLING OF THE BOFORS SCAM: A pure political development that added to various sorts of pressures increasing day by day on Rajiv Gandhi and his government.

1989 ELECTIONS – PRESSURE OF MISHANDLING SRILANKA: A foreign policy fiasco that further dented the credibility of Rajiv Gandhi.

1989 SHILANYAS OF TEMPLE BY VHP: It is said that, both the Congress government in Uttar Pradesh and at centre, could have stopped it. But when see that Rajiv Gandhi began his poll campaign for the 1989 Lok Sabha polls from Faizabad, we can easily find why they didn’t take proper legal interest to stall the VHP’s plans.

1989-91 – VP SINGH’S JAN MORCHA AND MANDAL POLITICS: VP Singh had left Congress on the issue of the Bofors scam but the pressure on him to save his coalition government pushed him to latch on to something that would again derail the Indian ship. He chose to branch out his majority appeasement politics by trying to divide the majority society into different higher and lower castes, through the Mandal proposals, that we now know as India’s caste based reservation system. Though VP Singh could not reap its benefits, we, as a society, are still cursed to weather its bad effects when we find that caste-equations and not development define the core agenda of the parties.

ANTI-MANDAL VIOLENCE AND PRESSURE ON VP SINGH: Implementation of the Mandal proposals led to widespread demonstrations and violence. It increased pressure on the VP Singh government to the extent that he had to go soft on Ayodhya, another important element of the majority appeasement politics.

SEPTEMBER 25, 1990: ADVANI KICKS OFF HIS RATHYATRA – THE MANDAL SPIN: The BJP cleverly used the deepening Ayodhya sentiments and the anti-Mandal protests to its advantage. It could make voters believe that it was their right representative in these circumstances. The electoral gains made by the BJP supported it. The party that could win just two seats in the previous Lok Sabha polls in 1984, won 85 seats in 1989.

OCTOBER 30, 1990: Police firing on kar sevaks in Ayodhya led to five deaths. Mulayam Singh Yadav was Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister. Another 15 kar sevaks were killed in police firing on November 2. Mulayam’s acts sent out a message that he was all about minority appeasement or as his political opponents could make people believe, at least those who did not vote for Mulayam and the 2017 UP assembly polls tell us that the sentiment has got stronger.

1991: The BJP’s first big political foray in the mainstream. It came to power in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh. It was the beginning of the emergence of a political alternative in India that would make Congress like a regional party in 25 years, as the Congress’ situation is now. And this emergence was built on majority politics, opposed to Congress’ minority politics.

DEC 6, 1992: Babri demolition and the aftermath – the riots of December 1992 that engulfed the country. The Bombay riots of December 1992 and January 1993 and subsequent serial blasts in India’s financial capital that killed scores. The majority Vs minority started becoming central to the political discourse in the country.

©SantoshChaubey

FIVE POINTS THAT INDICATE CONGRESS IS ACTUALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR BABRI-RAMJANMABHOOMI MESS

1. JAWAHAR LAL NEHRU: RAM LALLA IDOL WAS PLACE INSIDE BABRI MASJID ON THE INTERVENING NIGHT OF DEC 22-23, 1949. HE IS PRIMARILY BLAMED FOR NOT REALIZING THE POTENTIAL THREAT THAT THE ISSUE WOULD BECOME, THUS ADOPTING A SOFT APPROACH. IT IS SAID THAT NEHRU COULD NEVER FIND TIME TO VISIT AYODHYA FOR THE ISSUE THAT SHOWS HE COULD NEVER FIND IT POTENT ENOUGH TO MAKE A PRIORITY.

2. INDIRA GANDHI: IT IS SAID THAT SHE TOOK THE DECISION TO OPEN THE BABRI MASJID LOCKS. MANY INCLUDE AG NOORANI SAY THAT. THE ANALYSTS OPINE THAT IT WAS A CONSIOUS STRATEGY OF HER HINDU CARD POLITICS. PV NARASIMHA RAO, IN HIS BOOK ‘AYODHYA: 6 DEC 1992’ WRITES THAT ‘INDIRA GANDHI HAD ASKED TO PREPARE VARIOUS PLANS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF AYODHYA’. ALSO IT IS DURING INDIRA GANDHI’S TENURE THAT THE BABRI-RAM JAMNABHOOMI ISSUE TOOK POLITICAL CONTOURS FROM BEING A LARGELY RELIGIOUS ISSUE.

3. RAJIV GANDHI: OPENED THE LOCKS ON FEB 1, 1986. POLITICAL COMPULSIONS FORCED HIM TO PLAY THE HINDU CARD. HE OPENED THE PADLOCK AMID THE GLEAMING CAMERA LENSES TO SEND OUT THE MESSAGE. THOUGH HE WAS ARMED WITH A DISTRICT MEGISTRATE ORDER, HIS GOVERNMENT NEVER THOUGHT TO APPEAL AGAINST IT.

4. RAJIV GANDHI: ALLOWED THE RAM TEMPLE SHILANYAS BY THE VISHWA HINDU PARISHAD TO HAPPEN ON NOV 9, 1989, AGAIN A CONSCIOUS PLOY OF HINDU CARD POLITICS. HE WAS PRIME MINISTER TILL DECEMBER 2 BUT COULDN’T FIND LEGAL WAYS TO DERAIL OR STOP THE LIKES OF THE VHP.

5. PV NARASIMHA RAO: HE IS BLAMED FOR FAILING TO PREVENT BABRI DEMOLITION ON DEC 6, 1992. RAO IS BLAMED FOR CONSCIOUSLY IGNORING THE SIGNALS THAT A DEMOLITION WAS CERTAIN. HE DECIDED TO GO BY THE WORDS OF KALYAN SINGH WHO HAD TAKEN A VOW TO THE BUILD THE RAM TEMPLE IN AYODHYA THAN PEOPLE LIKE JYOTI BASU, ARJUN SINGH AND HIS OWN UNION HOME SECRETARY. FORMER PM VP SINGH BLAMED HIM FOR CRIMINAL NEGLIGENE. ANOTHER FORMER PM CHANDRA SHEKHAR BLAMED HIM FOR ‘DELIBERATE DERELICTION OF DUTY’.

DETAILED RESEARCH BASED ARTICLE TO FOLLOW.

©SantoshChaubey

FUMING AT SENDING GOVERNEMENT DELEGATION TO VATICAN FOR MOTHER TERESA’S CANONIZATION! WHY?

Reports say, after Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), now Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS) has expressed its displeasure on the Government of India decision to send a high party delegation to the Vatican City to participate in Mother Teresa’s Canonization Mass on September 4 when she will be declared a saint formally.

Going by the past rhetoric of these organizations, it is not unexpected. What was pleasant was how Narendra Modi summed up the emotion of the masses on the issue during his monthly radio address to the nation, “Mann Ki Baat” on August 28.

He rightly described how a person of Albanian origin, with no knowledge of English, adopted India and made its destitute people mission of her life. When he said that a high level delegation led by the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would represent India in Vatican, it was an expression of the wishes of the majority of Indians, unlike those few who still see “good and bad” defined by the demarcation of the religious lines.

Like VHP’s Surendra Jain rushed to criticize Narendra Modi on his knowledge of history and how a “Mother Teresa sainthood” would hasten proselytization. Even RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has concluded that though Mother Teresa’s work was good, it was not selfless. While delivering a lectures last year, in February 2015, Bhagwat linked Mother Teresa’s work with conversion, saying it was her primary motive. Bhagwat’s remarks had come at a time when Narendra Modi was busy in initiatives to heal and win back Christians’ confidence after a series of church attacks that later proved non-religious in nature.

Here are two things that we should go by.

Mother Teresa’s work was termed selfish when she devoted her whole life in the service of the poorest of the poor. When she left the world, she left an institution to serve the people. She didn’t keep anything for her, living a simple and austere life. When her work is called selfish, it really pains us, who see a motherly figure in her. Shouldn’t we stop seeing the extent of the kindness of greats from a religious eye?

Conversion? Why its fear is still instilled in us? Why our opinion leaders and politicians still try such loaded words?

How can 13.8 crore Muslims and 2.4 crore Christians be a threat to convert 82.7 crore Hindus to their fold?

There is famous saying in Hinduism – and I believe it should be there in almost every religion, if religions evolve to organize and better human lives – that you cannot think of worshipping God when you are hungry and the survival crisis is the sole question haunting you. That is the story of majority of Indians. The first duty of our opinion leaders and politicians should be to feed them first, to lift their lives out of survival hell.

Where our systems failed, people like Mother Teresa filled the gap. And yet it was not enough. India has more than 3 million registered non-governmental organizations. “The government, with restrain on resources, alone cannot reach to all in a country like India with widespread poverty and illiteracy” was the basic idea that allowed such a large number of NGOs in the country – so that they can go to the spaces where the government cannot.

The second thing that again reinforces the feeling that whenever there is a crisis on religious/community lines in the society, it is fuelled by motivated interests, is that none of incidents of church attacks last year were found religiously motivated. There was a great hue and cry and the whole political lot as well as evangelical institutions, from India and abroad, were propagating something like Christianity was in some imminent danger in India, especially after a Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led government was the incharge of affairs in India whose ideological mentor RSS has always been suspicious of the motives of the Christian missionaries working in India, something that even reflected in the Mohan Bhagwat statement mentioned above.

But nothing happened. India as secure for Hindus, as for Muslims, Christians and other faiths.

To continue..

©SantoshChaubey

GOD DIDN’T SAY YOU ARE A WOMAN AND THEREFORE DON’T COME TO ME. WE DID.

God is for everyone. God is of everyone. That is the ideal position but something that has been a deep rooted ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon universally, in almost every religion with different hues, in every society, in every country, including India.

We worship women. In Hinduism, Goddess Shakti is revered like the supreme deity. And it doesn’t end here. I am sure every religion has its own female deities. Yet we deny women the basic right – the right to equality in the places of worship.

And that’s why the court decisions like the one on the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai yesterday or the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmadnagar in April this year allowing women’s entry in the inner sanctum, so far barred for women, are important – away from the debates of such demands being being a mere publicity stunt – like we saw in Trupti Desai led movement that resulted in Shani Shingnapur verdict – or away from the political lethargy we see when the political class refuses to budge from its position keeping equations of the votebank politics in mind and it ultimately comes to the courts, the top custodian of our Constitution.

Court verdicts like these pull our attention to this very important discrimination prevailing in our society that we have so subtly legitimized – again in the name of religion – and have efficiently co-opted women to perpetuate such practices – out of fear psychosis – or emotional bondage – or cultural blackmail. You will find a major cross section of women advocating the women entry ban, be it Shani Shingnapur or Haji Ali. When women activists were planning to storm the Shani Shingnapur temple, women of the Shingnapur village and the nearby villages were preparing to stop them and a multi-layered security around the sanctum sanctorum.

Our scriptures say God is for everyone. They say He knows what is in our conscious and He comes to everyone. They say our faith is as important for God as God is for us. The Bombay High Court while delivering the order observed, “It cannot be said that the said prohibition `is an essential and integral part of Islam’ and fundamental to follow the religious belief; and if taking away that part of the practice, would result in a fundamental change in the character of that religion or its belief.” The High Court further summed up the spirit in its verdict, “There is nothing in any of the verses which shows, that Islam does not permit entry of women at all, into a Dargah/Mosque and that their entry was sinful in Islam.” (From the BombayHigh Court’s verdict)

When we worship our deities of both genders with equal faith and devotion, why do we discriminate between their devotees based on their genders? Why men fear women presence in innermost religious circles? That brings us to this point that religion is one of the most primitive tools to maintain male domination/hegemony in the society.

The court’s verdict on Shani Shingnapur was a slap in the face of orthodox Hinduism the same way as the yesterday’s is on Muslim fundamentalists, especially when women were allowed entry in Haji Ali’s inner sanctum till 2011-12. Haji Ali or Shani Shingnapur, they say the practice to deny women their basic rights in the religious places is not restricted to any particular religion. In fact, women have been historically denied their religious rights – and the problem is acute in religions like Islam or Hinduism or in different tribal sects. There are many taboos humiliating and restricting women rights in our society and this is one of them – a practice that has been made socially acceptable even if it is fundamentally wrong.

©SantoshChaubey

INDIA IS OF EVERY INDIAN. INDIA IS FOR EVERY INDIAN.

The basic tenet of ‘being humane and being civilized’ says – what is wrong will always be wrong – and can never be justified.

And like every other ‘basic tenet’ of humanity – such norms – a must for the humankind universally – must be followed in letter and spirit.

That is the ‘ideal’ situation.

And is a rarity in the prevailing political circumstances – not just in India – but in many countries across the world.

A direct corollary of that is the ongoing or the ‘raging’ political debate over ‘tolerance and intolerance’ in India.

Yes, we need to react on incidents of ‘intolerance’ if we are proud of our shared culture over the years. India is probably the only country in the world where major populations of two major religions live in relative harmony.

Yes, in harmony – because we have no other word to explain that – given the fact the country has stood together even after 68 years of independence – and is a robustly functional democracy – with a transparent electoral process.

Yes, there have been religious riots and other incidents of communal strife – but if we have stood together, as a coherent unit, even after that – it directly conveys where the priorities of the ordinary folks of these religions lie (or people of every religion in India).

And that squarely puts the political class and the opinion leaders in the dock – if there have been incidents that go against this spirit – like this atmosphere of intolerance and the debate over issues like beef politics and religious polarization.

We have lived in communal harmony for so long, for centuries – that – it is impossible to think India as a standalone nation for Hindus. Generations in India have experienced it and have assimilated it. India is of every Indian – India is for every Indian – irrespective of his or her religious affiliations.

That is the basic idea of India.

And every Indian must react to preserve this pillar on which the nations stands and grows. It is a social must. And we need to work to see until it becomes the cornerstone of our political prerogatives as well.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

YES, WE ARE STILL RESILIENTLY TOLERANT.

And for that reason, and that reason alone, we need to fight the increasing (fringe) voices of ‪‎intolerance – because it encompasses all – every sane and insane element in the ongoing ‘tolerance Vs intolerance’ debate that has seemed to envelope the nation’s consciousness.

Is there a radically surcharged atmosphere of negative connotations in the country?

Yes. It is.

Even if it is limited to some fringe elements!

Because they present face of an eminent danger lurching all around – that their increasing mainstreaming can vitiate the atmosphere to the extent that social harmony can again be taken for ride, can be tossed, by various anti-national elements, desperate to grab any such development.

We have seen it so many times – especially during rounds of massive riots that engulfed a large part of the country’s consciousness.

It is no hidden fact that Babri demolition and riots associated with it caused some ominous and fundamental changes in ‘manifestation of religious expressions’ – both by Hindus and by Muslims.

Opinion leaders and religious satraps of Hinduism threw more claims and threw vehement claims. Loudspeakers cropped up on many mosques. And the ensuing aftermath saw many more sporadic rounds of communal violence.

But, even after that, even after several such dark chapters in our post-independence history, the common refrain from an ordinary ‘common man’ Hindu or Muslim is still that living peacefully and surviving harmoniously always get precedence over the nitty-gritty of religious affairs; that an ordinary folk has his day to day survival in mind and not these ‘supercharged elements and the resultant surcharged atmosphere’.

The Indian society has survived and survived well these – keeping them at bay – and whenever these voices got some space, the social weaving came to heal the sentiments pushing such voices to the fringes of irrelevance.

We are so ‘common and routine’ about our life and its survival priorities but not about such religious preferences that work to divide us becomes once again clear when a sensitive portrayal of our togetherness in a movie, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, binds Indian and Pakistanis together in a mission – the two nations, the two sworn enemies, the two religious domains – with history of conflicts and hostilities.

And we need to fight fringe voice to preserve this ‘so common and routine’ way of our life – whenever they try to push their course into the mainstream of our conscious – we need to push them away, to beyond even fringes of irrelevance – today or tomorrow.

Religion is an important part of our being but it should always be – as it is in our day to day life – where we decide on our worship routine – where we shape how we need to follow our religion – where we feel a friendly reverence for our Almighty – where we ‘routinely’ fear about repercussions of doing something bad, something that will hurt and thus will anger our God.

We should decide on our religious preferences and practices. Religion should never decide on who we should become.

The conscience of the universal values of humanity should the conscious of every religion –open to changes with changing times – and not the other way round.

We have been and we are resiliently tolerant and we will successfully fight this momentary, peripheral surge of intolerance.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BANGLADESH! BANGLADESH!

“Bangladesh’s economic growth is ‘astonishing‘, especially when the global economy is facing a downturn.”

Kaushik Basu, Chief Economist, The World Bank – to bdnews24.com

The World Bank writes on Bangladesh, “Bangladesh has sustained an impressive track record for growth and development. In the past decade, the economy has grown at nearly 6 percent per annum despite frequent natural disasters and the fuel, food price and global financial crises. In the past two decades, poverty was reduced by nearly one third whereas life expectancy, literacy and per capita food production have increased significantly.”

I am a regular writer and blogger, now blogging for over six years. I write on everything that clicks. Yes, I do follow norms of a democratic country and don’t offend others whenever I write some sort of criticism or a satirical peace. A healthy dissent is a must for any democracy. And whenever there is good by the System, it also reflects in my writings. Plainly, I am very much part of the System, not anti to it, and like countless others, my concerns are basically about its well-being.

And even amidst raging debates on culture of tolerance and ‘communal Vs secular Vs casteist Vs caste-free politics’, India continues to remain a bright spot for expressing dissent. Yes, the state here regularly errs like Tamil Nadu on October 30 arrested a Tamil folk singer and activist for ‘allegedly’ writing songs maligning TN CM J. Jayalalithaa. But such acts attract widespread criticism and public outrage, amply represented in mainstream and social media – like we always see – like we are witnessing with writers, scientists, historians and filmmakers returning their awards to lodge their protests.

That is not the situation elsewhere, especially in India’s neighbourhood, more especially in Bangladesh with a considerable Hindu population and a shared culture with Bengal and Assam in India – based on language and geographical continuity.

We know Pakistan is not a secular country and we don’t expect reforms words like ‘freedom of speech and expression’ even to be heard there, in a socio-political atmosphere regulated by its military. Maldives is a dictatorship. Bhutan is friendly monarchy. And these two are very small countries – by population and by their geographic spread.

That leaves Bangladesh – on the table – a country with around 16 crore population – a country that shares land border with India – a country that owes its independent origin to India – a country where Hindu are still being hounded, as we can find from countless reports – a country where Hindus used to be over 30% of the population when India had given it a new, sovereign identity in 1971 – a country where Hindu are below 10% of the population now.

Like India, Bangladesh, too, has significant minority population – with added advantage of one language and one script.

We are rightly worried about growing audacity of fringe voices and growing culture of intolerance in the country. Moody’s, in fact, yesterday warned prime minister Narendra Modi that ‘India risks losing global credibility’ due to such incidents.

But Bangladesh, with a deep rooted culture of intolerance and religious fanaticism, continues to grow economically – in fact, at an astonishing pace, as Kaushik Basu says.

Yes, India and Bangladesh cannot be compared. India is a country and market of global stature now while Bangladesh is still seen as a chaotic nation with widespread malaise of poverty.

And any praise of Bangladesh should be seen in this context only – because, in spite of a prevalent culture of religious bigotry, the country has been able to reduce the number of poor significantly – and that is thanks to sustained economic growth – something, that makes it an ‘astonishing success story’ – irrespective of the context behind Mr. Basu’s words.

That doesn’t absolve society and administration of Bangladesh of their religious crimes.

Bangladesh has always been a hideout for anti-India terrorists – operating on religious lines – or working against the interests of India – HUJI or ULFA or others. And irrespective of the fact that India liberated Bangladesh, its successive governments have fuelled anti-India rhetoric back home.

And Bangladesh has had a history of minority persecution.

With a significant minority population, Bangladesh needs a secular culture but that is a far cry – highlighted again by the spate of murders of bloggers and publishers – who take a secular line in their work.

Yesterday, a publisher-blogger was hacked to death while three others seriously injured. Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent took responsibility. The slain blogger was publisher of another secular writer-blogger Avijit Roy who was hacked to death by religious fanatics this year in February, an attack that left his blogger wise seriously injured. Today, another Bangladeshi publisher got death threat for publishing many ‘so called atheist’ books.

The spate of attacks that began in February 2013, is continued unabated. So far, some seven writer-bloggers have been killed and many have been attacked brutally, surviving somehow the assaults. Writing on secular and rational lines that doesn’t fit in the schemes of hardliners and fanatics is bound to attract life threatening threats.

And so far, the government of Bangladesh has hailed to take any significant step in controlling the extremists – in spite of over 30 months since the first murder of a blogger in February 2013.

Bangladesh may ‘astonishingly’ reduce poverty with a sustained economic growth in the past decade, but it cannot go far in addressing the problem holistically – with more vocal religious fanatics and more hostile religious extremists on the prowl – and growing in strength.

What holds true for India – about the culture of intolerance – holds true for Bangladesh as well (or for that matter, any other country).

MuktoMona

Featured Image Courtesy: MuktoMona Website

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/