"Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true." - Swami Vivekanand

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Satanic Forces!

Human Rights must be guaranteed in a democracy in order to be a meaningful democracy. Can world’s largest democracy protect the rights of it's citizens by turning blind eye to the present situation and future challenges?

The immediate concern is the sub-judice case by Google and Facebook before Delhi high Court. Actually it is an appeal against lower Court’s order. 

It involves showing of objectionable content on it's webpages. This content is created by perverse users registered on these sites. Some viewers complained against it and Court threatened these sites to shut them down in Bharat. Now against that order of lower Court, Google and Facebook have appealed to the Delhi HC.

Second such incident is the happenings at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) in Rajasthan. The organizers had invited Salman Rushdie to participate in the JLF. He had agreed to come, and announcement to that effect was made. But some forces started opposing his arrival and protested largely. It was all due to meager chunk of people, who ignited all the community. Government suggested Rushdie to avoid coming to Bharat. Threat to his life was the reason. Who threatened his life? Who issued fatwas? Is our Government so weak that it cannot go ahead to protect a person for some days? Is it really so feeble to bow against some extremist blockheads?

4 authors went ahead and read out passages from ‘Satanic Verses’. Now the Rajasthan Govt is behind them. They left Jaipur abruptly in fear of arrests. So is the state of ‘freedom of speech and expression’.

Infact the Rule of Law in Bharat is sufficient to deal with both the situations. The users who posted and published objectionable content can be very well booked and punished under the Indian Penal Code and Information Technology Act, 2000. Such is the case with the extremists who say ‘we won’t allow such and such person to enter Bharat’. Are they Govt.? or Constitutional sanctioning authority? Will Govt depend upon their approval? Does it not show absence of sovereignty in the Govt? Thus it is high time now, Govt should deal in strong and stern manner with these non-State actors. Who undermine the sovereignty of Govt. Political will is needed. One cannot expect the ‘vote-hungry crowd’ to discharge the duties properly. ‘Vote-bank greed’ won’t allow you to act rationally.

Like Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasreen – Bangladeshi writer in exile – faces the same fate. Threats, endless feeling of insecurity, constant danger, frenzied mobs and satanic forces! What is their fault? To speak out against violation of Human Rights? They need to be protected and to be given the freedom to make people aware about the religious fanaticism and ideological extremism.

One can argue very well that the case of M F Hussain was similar to Mr. Rushdie or Shrimati Taslima Nasreen. Why then M F Hussain be condemned and Rushdie and Nasreen be protected and given free hand? This is very attractive argument to defend the case of Hussain. Also it seems valid prima-facie. But one needs to consider some basic difference between the two cases and then arrive at a conclusion.

M F Hussain was himself a Muslim. And he painted Hindu Gods and Goddesses in such a manner which hurt Hindu sentiments. He never painted any other religious figures than Hindu, in derogatory manner – to which some perverts regarded as an ‘art’. But did his ‘art’ prevent him from depicting other religious Gods but Hindu deities? Hence Hussain can be said to be a part of the fashionable cult whose only agenda seems to attack Hindu beliefs in Bharat. Such is not the case with Salman Rushdie and shrimati Taslima Nasreen. They themselves are born in Muslim families and they talk about the dangerous trends in Islam. They wish to eradicate the things detrimental to humanity at large. They need to be given the status of ‘reformationists’. Every religion except Islam has undergone the process of reformation at some or the other point of time. Many have undergone such process more than once. But Islam is an exception.

The thing which opposes reformation ceases to exist. Animals, plants, birds, insects, structures, machines, theories need evolution and reformation to maintain it's existence. Be it a lively or lifeless thing – natural or manmade – change and adaptation to changing environment is a must. How a religion can be exception to this eternal rule?

Thus Islam needs to come out of stagnation and accept new things. Salman Rushdie and shrimati Taslima Nasreen are the voices of billions of oppressed women and compelled children born in Islam. The voice of justified silent sufferers. It should not be suppressed. Humanity ought to give protection to such fearless and courageous ‘reformationists’ and contribute to their relentless efforts for the Herculean task.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Protecting Minority Rights in Bharat.

This is a summary on the topic of the above Title, presented by me in recent visit to European Countries. -
असतो मा सद्गमय,
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय,
मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय,
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः |

I belong to the ancient land of seers and sages who devoted their lives in quest of peace and emancipation of soul. Gautam Buddha, as we all know, left his palace in search of peace. Today, the world is facing serious problems of Human Rights violations and atrocities on vulnerable sections. Terrorism, religious fundamentalism and ideological extremism are some of the most dreadful challenges before human race. We, as one of the oldest civilizations in the world – Hindu Civilization or more popularly known as Indus valley civilization, have lot to share with the world to make it a better and more beautiful place.

India i.e. Bharat has now a total population of about 120 crores (more than 1 billion). Owing to different languages, sects, religions (worship modes), cultures, regional varieties of costumes and cuisines, philosophies, we have a great mosaic of social patterns. All these aspects make every individual hail from minority community. But as a whole, Indian populace is one united nation owing to various factors providing a base to establish unity.

Minorities based on religion: India is essentially a Hindu Nation. Not by religion but by culture and tradition. Infact this culture has enabled India to assimilate the invaders, refugees, intruders into the mainstream and grow with them. The prayer from Vedas (oldest known literature to mankind) says, “आ नो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वतः|” (aa no bhadrah kratavo yantu vishvataha) meaning “let noble thoughts come to us from all directions). Today we have Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Jews as religious minorities. To protect their rights and bring them to mainstream, Government of India has a separate ministry called ‘Ministry of Minority Affairs’[1]. Its budgetary allocation was ` 2500 crores (25,000 millions). It provides for scholarships, freeships and other beneficial policies for persons from religious minorities. India had 2 Muslim Presidents as of yet. Today also Vice President is a Muslim viz. Hameed Ansari.

The Constitution of India is supreme law of the land and is a custodian of fundamental rights. It specifically confers upon its citizens the Rights to Freedom of Religion (Articles 25 to 28). Stretching this Freedom too far, some groups try to convert people from one religion to their own. This is done by force, allurement or under the garb of service. Such mass conversion destroys the indigenous culture of that group. Mahatma Gandhiji had said, If I had the power and could legislate, I should stop all proselytizing. In Hindu households the advent of a missionary has meant the disruption of the family coming in the wake of change of dress, manners, language, food and drink.” (November 5, 1935). In protection of minority rights in North-East India, I urge you all to experience the indigenous culture there and visualize the mass conversion resulting into not only the demographic change but also destroying cultural identities.

So is the case with tribals in India. Tribal population is 8.43 crore i.e. 8.2% of total population[2]. Tribals are nature worshippers. They consider God in trees, snakes, cows, birds and rivers. Some groups are trying to destroy their culture and convert them to their own fold. Constitution of India considers these tribals as Scheduled Tribes. Special provisions are made to protect their culture. Many NGOs like Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram are working for them.

Parsis hail originally from Iran. They arrived on western coast of India. They and people on the coast were unable to communicate with each other, as each other’s languages were not known to them. The King there gave a glass filled with milk completely upto the brim. This was to tell the Parsis that there is remains no space to live. But the Parsis put a spoonful of sugar into it and suggested that we will live here amiably and assimilate with society as sugar in the milk. Today, Parsis are only 69,000. They are really a minority. But they have shown merit and achievement in many fields. They never subjected to any human rights violation ever. Tatas and Godrej are one of the biggest industrialists in the country. Only 2 persons were conferred title of Field Marshal by independent India and 1 of them is Parsi viz. Sam Manekshaw.

Jews lived a very safe life in India. When they were facing atrocities in various parts of the world, in India their community enjoyed freedom and liberty. Today also, being a minority they never feel subjected to any discrimination.

Regional Minorities: India is a Union of States. Every State has its own State Government but all people are governed by the Constitution of India. The exception is the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This State has its own Constitution and special status. The people known as Kashmiri Pundits were forced to leave the valley. This exodus from the valley resulted in seven lakh Kashmiri Pundits to stay away from their homeland and to live elsewhere in the country as refugees.[3] Their condition is pathetic. I take this opportunity to bring to light the real state of the affair.

The Jammu and Kashmir has always been a part of India. Lakhs of Hindu pilgrims visit the shrines of Amarnath and Vaishnodevi every year.

Indian Army builds bridges, roads and dams with its mechanical and engineering divisions. But it is wrongly blamed for Human Rights violations in the valley. The terrorism, especially cross border terrorism, is the real cause of Army’s presence there. Now it’s a debatable question whether terrorists have human rights, but apart this, Kashmir remains attraction for international policy makers. Recently, the Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) in partnership with the Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) held a press conference in Muzaffarabad and brought in light the key issues in Pakistan Administered Kahsmir (PAK) as[4]:
a.      Unavailability of the right of minorities to vote in elections.
b.      Lack of political representation of minorities in the national Assembly.
c.      Lack of citizenship for minorities.
d.      Lack of employment opportunities for minorities.
Three approaches are there to solve the Kashmir issue:
1. Jammu & Kashmir belongs to India given its history and accession instrument signed by the then King of Jammu & Kashmir.
2. Jammu & Kashmir belongs to Pakistan given its Islamic majority population.
3. Jammu & Kashmir is a separate state i.e. Azaad Kashmir – i.e. nothing to do with either India or Pakistan.
To decide which among the three will be the correct answer to the problem, some suggest plebiscite. And it is very fair approach. Let the people living there decide about their choice. But the demand for plebiscite could have been the right approach some 60 years ago i.e. in 1947, when the population was mainly the original residents living for generations. Now seven lakh (7,00,000) were driven out in this six dreadful decades Will the plebiscite be justifiable now? Bringing back all these exiles, rehabilitating them and then performing plebiscite would be the right course to solve the problem and end the tussle over Kashmir issue.

Naxalite/Maoist movement: This is armed rebellion in some underdeveloped parts of India. It is matter of fact that those parts are lagging behind in development and availability of resources. But armed rebellion is not the answer. The movement has killed over 10,000 people in last 5 years[5]. These deaths include civilians, alongwith security personnel. Naxal leaders, causing this genocide, claim it to be for the underdeveloped tribals and villagers. But in the process tribals to do not show allegiance to this movement are brutally killed. The international links of this movement should be checked for supplies of ammunition and finance. They claim to be followers of Maoist ideology.

Linguistic Minorities: There are mainly 22 languages recognized by the Constitution of India e.g. Bengali, Gujrati, Marathi etc. But there are more than 800 dialects. Many dialects have their own literature. Linguistic minorities never face the problem of discrimination or coercion from main languages in any form. They cherish their own parlance of communication. All these Indic languages are products and derivatives of Sanskrit.
Dalits – Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes: Casteism prevalent in Hindu religion have caused the genesis of downtrodden minorities called as Dalits. In ancient days, person’s occupation ensued his/her caste. And child used to learn father’s occupation and continue with it as grown up. This resulted into a situation where taking birth intro certain community was decisive of that person’s caste.

People doing menial work considered to be of lower caste. The same occupation continued for generations and it resulted into inverse position. A person taking birth into certain caste had to take up the occupation of his forefathers’. Untouchability was like adding insult to injury. This caused downtrodden class of certain catses considered as lowest on the social strata.

Efforts for emancipation of Dalits: Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was himself a Dalit born in 1891 in a family having lowest social status at that time. He faced embarrassing situations. But he did his education with confidence and went to London School of Economics where he completed his D.Sc. Then he was awarded with a Ph.D. by Columbia University in America. When he returned to India he dreamt of social justice for his brethren and struggled for it. He is considered as the Architect of the Constitution of India, for he was the Chairperson of the Drafting Committee for the Constitution. Therefore we find ample provisions in the Constitution for giving social justice to the oppressed and discriminated castes.

Dalit community is also progressing. Presently the Chief Minister of India’s biggest state is a Dalit woman. We had Dalit Vice Chancellors for Mumbai University as well as Pune University[6]. Dalit industrialists and businesspersons have come together and formed ‘Dalit Chamber of Commerce’[7]. The community is awakened to their social, political and economic rights and is progressing day by day.
Today, apart from Constitutional, legal and statutory provisions, the real solution would be to mingle with people from Dalit community and convince them about the importance of education and assimilate them into the mainstream by giving them respect and honour.

The Hindu civilization and its oldest scriptures give us some principles, which are essential for world peace. I end up here with mentioning some of them.
1.      Idea of global village: This thought is known as वसुधैव कुटुंबकम् (vasudhaiv kutumbakam) meaning, “whole world is one family”. Today due to technological advancements, we have come so closer that one cannot turn blind eye to other country’s problems, as they ultimately affect every country to some extent. Be it EURO concern or terrorism, we shall stand united to face these challegens.
2.      One Truth, various ways: एकं सत् विप्राः बहुधा वदन्ति | (ekam sat, viprah bahudha vadanti) meaning our ultimate aim is one, but the ways to reach this goal are different. Therefore, God is one, and everybody tries to reach him by various ways of worship, we call it as religions. Thus for religious tolerance and freedom to profess religion, this maxim is essential. Some scriptures give example as raindrops fallen at different places come through different rivers and brooks but ultimately merge into sea. That should be the idea behind unifying mankind having different religions.
3.      Love towards ecology and nature: Hindu philosophy believes that God is all pervading. In Swami Vivekananda’s words, Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship or psychic control, or philosophy, by one, or more or all of these -and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas; rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details."

Ultimately I pray for happiness to all of us: सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः, सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः, सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु, मा कश्चिद् दुःखमाप्नुयात् | ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः| (May everyone be happy, may everyone be free from all diseases, may everyone see goodness and auspiciousness in everything, may none be unhappy or distressed. Aum peace, peace, peace!)